Organic agriculture produces products using methods that preserve the soil and environment and avoid most synthetic materials, such as those in most pesticides and antibiotics. For products to be labeled and marketed as certified organic, the farmer, rancher, and/or food processor must follow USDA Organic Standards.
In short, Organic farms and processors:
- Preserve natural resources and biodiversity,
- Support animal health and welfare,
- Provide access to the outdoors so that animals can exercise their natural behaviors,
- Only use approved materials,
- Do not use genetically modified ingredients,
- Receive annual onsite inspections,
- Separate organic food from non-organic food.
Organic farming doesn’t mean pesticide or chemical free. There is a long list of OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) approved pesticides.
The process of becoming “certified organic” takes time and has a cost but because consumers are willing to pay more for organic products this is usually not a problem for most farmers. Any land to be used for certified organic production must be free of any prohibited substance for at least 3 years prior to becoming certified. The cost depends on the type of farm and region within the US but there are cost-share programs that pay up to 75% of the cost.
The University of Florida IFAS Extension will be hosting a Small Farm Series on Organic Vegetable Production in January 2015. We will meet on January 15, 22, and 29 from 6-7:30 pm at our office at 3098 Airport Road in Crestview. The cost is $30 per person or $45 for a couple. Please register by January 7th so we can order enough materials. Register by calling 689-5850 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.