We were beyond thrilled to be invited by Tracey and Jo to be a guest on their Thrive by Additive Free Lifestyle podcast, where we had the opportunity to delve deep into the whats, whys, dos and don’ts of organic and spray-free produce! You can listen to the entire podcast for free at the Additive Free Lifestyle website, or on your favourite streaming platform.
Who are Tracey and Jo, and what is the Additive Free Lifestyle?
Tracey and Jo are two passionate mothers and sisters who have taken a keen interest in being curious about food. Specifically, what additives have been put into our food, and for what purpose. We know many of you are very keenly aware about the importance of questioning the integrity of commercially produced food (not just what’s sprayed on your fruits and veges) so we know that you’ll love connecting with Tracey and Jo also! Check out their website to learn about their additive scanner app, meal planner, recipes and of course, their Thrive by Additive Free Lifestyle podcast!
You can find them on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and at their website.
What’s in the Episode?
As guests we talked about all the whats, whys, do and don’ts of organic and spray-free produce! We covered:
- The difference between “Spray Free” and “Certified Organic”
- Understanding what’s really on, and in, your supermarket produce, and why it can’t just be washed off
- How cows and chickens help produce better quality fruits and veges
- What the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists are, and how they can help you make good choices
- Tips and Tricks to access and save money when buying spray free produce
What is the difference between “Spray Free” and “Certified Organic”?
We get asked this a lot.
In simple terms, it’s just a piece of paper that separates these two types of farms. Certified organic produce originates from farms that have obtained official organic certification, guaranteeing that no chemicals were used in the entire cultivation process. Spray free produce, on the other hand, is grown on farms that completely abstain from chemical use but that do not possess organic certification.
In Australia, there are several organisations responsible for certifying organic produce, with Australian Certified Organic being the main one. Obtaining organic certification involves rigorous testing processes that span years and years, and require substantial financial investment that is often not feasible for some of our farmers to achieve.
Organic certification is considered the Gold Standard, and about half of the farmers that supply to us are certified, but for many others the cost involved can be prohibitive. That’s why we choose to support both Certified Organic Farms as well as farms that are not certified but have a demonstrated commitment to operating without sprays and chemical fertilisers. This allows those dedicated farmers the ability to sell their produce whilst remaining true to their commitment to chemical and spray free practices. They take pride in knowing that their products reach homes that genuinely appreciate their mission and dedication to a healthier, chemical free approach.
And conventional produce, what’s really on, and in, what I buy at the supermarket?
Unfortunately, Australia ranks among the highest pesticide consumers globally, with approximately 8,000 approved pesticides for use on Aussie farms. What's concerning is that many of the chemicals and sprays used in Australia have severe implications for both human health and environmental health. These substances are banned in other countries around the world due to their detrimental effects.
Regrettably, the regulatory bodies in Australia have not taken sufficient action to address this issue. The use of pesticides extends beyond insecticides; toxic fertilisers also find their way into the soil, resulting in a double impact on produce. This harmful practice leads to the destruction of the plant microbiome and ultimately yields inferior quality crops and less nutrients for you.
There are a lot of good documentaries on this subject including Polyfaces and The Biggest Little Farm that both emphasise a crucial fact; the soil serves as the source of nutrients for plants. Our soil is packed with diverse microbiomes contributed to by beneficial insects. However, when crops are sprayed with chemicals and toxic fertilisers are introduced to the soil, these substances harm the beneficial bugs that nourish the soil's microbiome, while also targeting harmful pests.
Is that where the cows and chickens come in?
Sure is! It’s called Regenerative Farming, or Regenerative Agriculture, and it revolves around the preservation and restoration of our soils, with a specific emphasis on regenerating topsoil. Various techniques and methodologies are employed to achieve this goal, including rotating livestock through fields and paddocks to improve soil quality.
If you’re interested in learning about Regenerative Farming we highly recommend watching the documentary, Polyfaces. This film follows the journey of an Australian family who invests their life savings and spends four years documenting their experiences with regenerative farming practices in the United States. The family establishes a chemical-free farm that not only sustains itself but also provides food for over 6,000 families and supplies restaurants and food outlets. Their approach involves harmonising with nature, rather than working against it, by utilising the symbiotic relationship between animals and their natural functions to cultivate nutrient-dense and high-quality crops. It’s remarkable story and testament to the potential and success of regenerative farming, highlighting the transformative power of working in harmony with nature's inherent wisdom.
What’s the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen, then?
The Dirty Dozen is an annual assessment conducted by the Environmental Working Group in the United States to determine the most pesticide-contaminated produce. Whilst we don’t have our own list specific to Australia, we do have similar farming practices and the Dirty Dozen list is a great general guide that can be used here.
The 2023 guides includes data from over 46,000 samples of 46 fruits and vegetables, with the top 12 most contaminated being:
- Kale, Collard and Mustard Greens
- Capsicums and Peppers
- Green Beans
Conversely, the Clean 15 list comprises the 15 fruits and vegetables with the lowest pesticide residues. These include:
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet Peas (frozen)
- Honeydew melon
- Sweet Potatoes
The purpose of these lists is to provide guidance so you can make informed decisions. If eating a completely perfect, 100% organic diet is not accessible to you, these lists can help you prioritise your purchasing decisions.
What other Tips and Tricks can you share?
- Support local farmers by shopping at farmers' markets or buying directly from them to reduce costs – we’ve made that part easy at Spray-Free Farmacy!
- Opt to collect from one of our convenient pick-up points for free in order to save on delivery fees – that means you can add more spray free goodness to your cart!
- Choose seasonal produce as it tends to be more affordable.
- Consider purchasing organic frozen produce, which is often cheaper than fresh options.
- Try growing your own vegetables and herbs, as it's easier than you may think and doesn't require much space.
- Save money by buying in bulk and freezing any excess for later use. We have lots of BULK deals on our website for you to check out.
- Implement meal planning to ensure you only purchase what you need and to help minimise food waste.