Midstaters turning to organic foods

There’s a growing trend in the midstate when it comes to food. Lots of people are taking a real look at what exactly they’re putting in their bodies, and some don’t like what they see. They’re going back to basics, buying organic.

“We are the stereotypical people who everything we grab, we turn it over and look at what’s inside it,” said Mikee Bentz of Harrisburg. He is more than just a conscientious shopper. He takes what he eats very seriously. “We had plastic utensils and one skillet when we started. Now we have a juicer, I grind all my own spices, and a pasta roller because we make all of our pasta from scratch.”

Bentz has given up on conventional foods. He’s now totally organic. He’s not alone, lots of people are making the switch to these foods they say are cleaner, healthier, and tastier.

“If you’re a farm, and you’re certified organic, and you’re growing produce, you can’t use pesticides, any synthetic fertilizers. You can’t be using sewage to fertilize either,” said Susan Kiskis, the general manager of the Healthy Grocer.

The Healthy Grocer in Camp Hill sells all types of organic food, which has become really popular. A big reason, they’re an alternative to genetically modified foods. Those are crops altered in a lab for any number of reasons, including keeping them resistant to chemicals used in fields. “I feel like we probably should have figured out how to increase our organic farming practices before we went to the genetic modification of it,” said Bentz.

Genetically modified foods are regulated by the government and have been deemed safe. Still those against them say it’s too early to be sure. “We’re kind of creating this cycle where we’re putting a lot of chemicals into our food so we’re ingesting those chemicals,” said Kiskis, “it’s changing the way they taste and it could be changing what’s going on in our body.”

Planting season has just begun at a Lancaster County farm. Food that’s grown there is completely chemical free, it’s just one of many certified organic farms all across the midstate. “We have about 85 member farmers that are part of our co-op,” said Casey Spacht, the executive director of Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-Operative. It is a group of small organic farms. “We didn’t want to use chemicals. We didn’t want sewage sludge applied to our field, literally crap on our fields, so we decided that we were going to take the power back and create this model,” said Spacht.

Farmers there tend to the land by hand. “In our area we are starting to see super weeds,” said Spacht, “Weeds that the conventional guys have to douse again and again with more chemicals.” That’s not the case on this farm. The co-op runs a community supported agriculture program where customers get fresh foods delivered to their neighborhoods.

It’s also getting easier to find organic food in unexpected places. The owner of Smoke BBQ in Dauphin County, Josh White, says his restaurant uses as many locally sourced, organic ingredients as they can. “Barbecue’s always been my love, and I said I would not do it any way if we couldn’t have all organic meat in our place,” said White.

Whether you’re eating out or eating in, those involved in the organic lifestyle say it’s most important to know what you’re eating. Genetically modified foods don’t have to be labeled. That’s something Bentz says needs to change. He organized a rally at the capitol last year. “We feel that labels need to be on every food item that we buy in America,” he said.

If you want to be sure your food has not been altered, look for foods that say either “organic” or have the “non-gmo” label. But be careful of other buzz words. “Natural is a whole other ball of wax,” said Kiskis, “You have a lot of people throwing around the word natural without it even being natural. Natural flavors can still be chemically made.”

Chemicals Bentz says he’s better off not eating. “It gives you power knowing what’s in your food,” he said.

One of the downsides to buying organic, it’s usually a lot more expensive because it takes more work to grow and they’re not mass produced. But organic lovers say it all evens out in the end, they’re healthier and happier.

Meanwhile, there will be another organic foods rally at the capitol on Saturday, May 24th. For more information, check out

If you’re interested in signing up for the Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-Operative CSA, check out http://www.lancasterfarmfresh.com/.

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