Organic crop production is increasing in the tri-county agricultural area, with a healthy abundance of vegetables headed straight to your local grocery stores and retail markets. But what makes your produce “organic?”
When discussing organic practices with the public, it is often assumed that organic produce is not treated when infected with pests. However, even organic crops can be treated with pesticides, but they’re not like the conventional pesticide products which are synthetically made. In order to be an organic product, USDA has the following requirements:
- Produced without excluded methods (genetic engineering), ionizing radiation or sewage sludge;
- Produced per the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances; and
- Overseen by a USDA National Organic Program-authorized certifying agent.
Organic farms do not grow GMOs, and use alternative forms of fertilizers that are more naturally derived, such as with chicken manure. Instead of using synthetic pesticides for disease suppression, an organic grower may use copper instead. Organic produce is often more costly due to these constraints – fewer products to choose from and all of which with a significant price tag.
Not just anyone can claim to be USDA certified. A farmer must apply organic practices for three years, and then an accredited USDA certifier will inspect and grant certification if approved. To find available certifiers in your area, visit the Agricultural Marketing Service page. This website is also very useful for looking up market prices of produce, along with grades and standards while visiting.
Additionally, if a grower were to sell their crops and market them as “organic,” they must have the USDA Organic seal. There is regulatory associations with this terminology, and businesses can be fined for inappropriately using the term “certified organic” without an inspection and certification by USDA. However, you can share that your crops are naturally produced without the use of synthetic or genetically modified products if you are not yet certified, but following those practices.
Interested in knowing what farms are certified organic by USDA? Check out their Integrity Database to search by farm, location or certifier.