Last week, I spent four days in Vermont and New Hampshire with a few other bloggers as part of the first-ever Stonyfield Farm Blogger Barnstorming Tour. It was a chance for us to get some mud on our boots—and to learn firsthand why organic food really is good for us and the planet. We met farmers, who are true caretakers of the land and their animals and work hard every day to produce food for our tables and families.

Since reaching my Feel Great Weight, I’ve put more thought into what I put into my body, and my trip made me think about that even more. I didn’t know much about organic farming, so this was an eye-opening trip for me. Quite simply, I can’t afford to buy all organic, all the time. But now I know that in many cases, it's certainly worth the splurge. Here are some of the changes I plan on making.

Before: I stressed about consuming too many calories and often chose artificial “diet” foods.
After: I’ll think more about the nutritional quality of my food.

On the trip, instead of worrying about calories, I appreciated how nutritious the food and drink we were offered were for me. I even drank full-fat milk straight from the cow! The milk was thick and creamy and packed with vitamins and minerals. I didn’t once worry about how many calories I was consuming. Going forward, I plan to think about how to get the freshest, most nutritious foods into my body. And I’ll make more of an effort to stay away from “foods” with long lists of ingredients that I can’t pronounce.

Before: I presumed that meat was too high in calories and fat, so I didn’t eat it very often.
After: Spending time on the farms made me realize that grass-fed beef is actually very nutritious!

I had the pleasure of visiting Choiniere Family Farm near Lake Champlain, Vt., which is owned and operated by Guy and Beth Choiniere. The couple previously produced their crops according to conventional standards until another local farmer introduced them to organic methods. Three years later, the farm was certified USDA organic.

The switch wasn’t easy, but Guy told us that if he gives his cows something nutritious, he’ll receive a healthy return. He further explained with this analogy: “Cows are like athletes; milking is the equivalent of running a marathon.” As a farmer, Guy takes on the role of a trainer, giving the cows the best quality pasture to feed their bodies. Grazing benefits cows because they absorb all of the vitamins and minerals from the pasture. Cows take about 200 bites of grass before they get sick of chewing, so most farmers make sure that their cows are eating the best possible food.

Why should I be any different from Guy’s cows? That’s the lesson I took away from visiting the farm. I’m planning to run a marathon, so I need to fuel my body just like Guy fuels his herd. That means choosing meat that’s organic—it may be pricier, but since I don’t eat beef often, I can certainly afford the occasional splurge.

Before: I ate lots of salads but loaded up on tons of toppings, which ultimately made them pretty caloric!
After: While visiting an organic community supported agriculture (CSA) provider, I discovered a whole new world of vegetables. I can’t wait to use them to liven up my salads.

We tried many wonderful, flavor-packed vegetables on the tour, including some more common varieties like summer squash and zucchini. But we also tried some new (at least to me) and interesting ones! Have you ever heard of kohlrabi? It’s a German turnip related to the cabbage. I had never heard of it—let alone tasted it—so I was psyched to give it a try. This variety had a bright purple skin and tasted sort of like cabbage or a stem of broccoli. We also tried garlic scapes, rainbow chard, and Tuscan kale. The next time I’m looking for a little adventure in my meals, I’ll hit up a local farmer’s market and try something new.

Read Tina’s daily food and fitness blog, Carrots 'N' Cake.