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Farm Link Hawai‘i operates our year-round marketplace with the help of over 100 local farmers, ranchers, and food makers. We work closely with our suppliers to ensure that every single product meets our food standards. However, we are a small team doing our best to manage 1,000+ products so occasionally we miss something. If you have a question or concern about anything on our marketplace, please email email@example.com and let us know.
Our ideal marketplace would have all USDA Certified Organic products and any animal-based product would be Animal Welfare Approved. This is the vision we're working to realize and we give preference to farms that take the effort to participate in these certifications and practices. But, they are not requirements nor are they judgements of any producers that don't meet these standards. Local agriculture comes in many shapes and sizes and we are supportive of anyone growing food in Hawai‘i. Learn more about what our current food standards are by reading the sections below.
Every single product on our marketplace produced in the State of Hawai‘i. All produce and flowers are grown in Hawai‘i from seed to harvest. Any meat and poultry were raised and slaughtered here (but baby chicks or ruminants may have been born elsewhere and shipped here young). Any seafood was caught in Hawaiian waters (although we're still trying to define exactly what this means). Our eggs and dairy come from animals raised here and those animals must meet our meat and poultry standards. Finally, any prepared food and value-added products must contain at least 50% local ingredients by value. We verify this by asking producers to send us an ingredient cost breakdown.
Not all products on our marketplace are USDA Certified Organic. Anything that is labeled with the word "organic" or that shows the USDA Organic seal is verified to be USDA Certified Organic by our team. We require organic farms to send us their certification paperwork annually. And, while many of our uncertified farms follow similar organic practices, we only allow the word "organic" or the organic seal on products that are certified organic. We encourage our farmers to get certified when possible.
While no farmer wants to use pesticides, the hard truth is that agricultural production—both organic and conventional—is very difficult without occasional pesticide use. A lot of consumers might be surprised to know that many pesticides are allowed in USDA Certified Organic production. Organic pesticides include neem oil (same as in your toothpaste) and biological sprays of bacillus thuringiensis (bacterium found in soil). Many conventional pesticides are almost identical to their organic counterparts (just a lot cheaper). Other more widely-known conventional pesticides include Roundup (glyphosate, technically an herbicide) and 1,3-dichloropropene (banned in Europe, not the U.S.).
We work with our organic and conventional farmers to ensure they are using pesticides responsibly and that any of the more hazardous conventional pesticides are not used at all (this list is still in development). We will continue to improve our transparency around each product in on our marketplace. You can view our Producers page to learn more about each farm's growing practices and contact them directly, if appropriate. There is a lot of promise in regenerative production systems that focus on soil and plant health and we are working toward that ideal. But, farming is complex—especially in Hawai‘i—and there is still a long way to go before we figure it all out. Until then, Farm Link will continue to work with each of our producers to ensure they are following pesticide regulations and continually striving to improve their practices to produce the best tasting, most nutritious, and safest products possible.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
There is no GMO produce on our marketplace. However, some of the cows, sheep, and poultry may have been fed conventional feed containing GMOs. (Note, USDA Certified Organic animal feed is allowed to contain up to 5.0% GMO genetics.) And, some prepared foods may contain GMO ingredients, such as non-organic sugar (from sugar beet) or non-organic canola oil (from corn). Any ingredient labeled organic means it is USDA Certified Organic, which by definition does not contain GMOs. We encourage our customers to do their research and contact us if you have any questions.
Farm Link's founders also founded and still co-operate a USDA Certified Organic farm. And, many of our staff actively participate in organic and regenerative agriculture. So it goes without saying that we'd prefer to eat USDA Organic and Animal Welfare Approved food produced on regenerative farms using open-source genetics and we will continue to strive for that. However, most of our staff personally feels fine about eating GMO crops. This is based on decades of peer-reviewed research indicating many GMO crops have no adverse human health outcomes. Also, we respect many of our colleagues involved in GMO research or agriculture in Hawai‘i. The staff at Corteva in Waialua, O‘ahu have generously supported many farmers (organic and not) and they practice cover cropping and minimize pesticide use. With all that said, we ultimately listened to the concerns of our customers and made the decision to not include GMO produce in our supply-chain to ensure our customers felt comfortable. We welcome respectful, nuanced, and open dialogue of this polarizing and complex issue.
We believe all farm animals have value beyond economic measure and are entitled to moral and ethical consideration. As such, we uphold high standards for their humane treatment including preventative wellness care, rehabilitative care, access to pasture and a substantial percentage of their time spent on grass, living conditions and shelter that promotes their physical and social health, and slaughter practices that minimize suffering. Chicken and ducks must be either pastured (raised on rotating pasture in mobile housing from pullet age) or cage-free, according to USDA regulations. All cage-free eggs are raised in fresh air houses. We specify the feed type used: USDA Organic, Non-GMO Verified, or conventional.
We strive to always promote our farmers and ranchers first. Farm Link exists to help them be more successful. As a consumer, you'll generally be able to know which producer you're buying from before you purchase a product—just look for the producer name next to the product. However, for some products that are grown by many of our small producers (e.g. kale or citrus), we may roll those up into one entry in our store labeled From Our Farmers. We do this in order to have the flexibility to source from as many of our small local farmers as possible and ultimately purchase more from them. We are working on improving the labeling so you'll know which farm those products came from once you receive them.
We ensure our farmers follow good agricultural practices although most are not yet food safety certified. Our team ensures the cold-chain is unbroken, ensuring our products are kept below the temperatures required. We work with our suppliers to follow best practices to ensure you receive high-quality products that are safe to eat.
We believe all people working in the food chain deserve safe and healthy working conditions and fair compensation. While we don't have any formal criteria for labor practices, we will only work with producers that we deem to treat their workers fairly and provide safe and healthy working conditions.
We believe in advancing regenerative and organic production practices that conserve soil and water, protect wildlife habitats and biodiversity, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We prioritize working with producers that share these goals.Updated on June 7, 2020.