Certified Organic – What Does It Mean? by our farmer-in-chief Thaddeus Barsotti
When considering the term “certified organic,” it is important to understand that today this is a legal description. It is also important to understand that the term “organic” has many connotations associated with it, such as sustainability and biodiversity. While these ideas were at the root of the organic foods movement, the current “organic” definition only addresses the issues of amendments used for farming. It does not address methods of farming that are harmful or beneficial to our environment and ecosystem. The following is a basic list of all the amendments used in agriculture:
- Transplants (seeds grown in a greenhouse then transplanted into fields)
- Herbicides (items used to control weeds)
- Pesticides (items used to control bugs and pests)
- Fungicides (items used to control fungi)
The basic definition of an organic amendment is that it can be found naturally in the environment. Items that are naturally found in the environment and are chemically altered from their original form are not considered organic.
Items that organic farmers can use are limited to items that are naturally found in our environment like: animal manures, worm castings, seaweed, bat guano, blood meal, fish meal, feather meal and compost. While these are all permitted, not all farms use them.
The Process of Certification
In order for a crop to be certified organic, it must be grown on a piece of land that has not had any non-organic materials applied to it for the past three years. Land that has started the process of becoming certified organic (has started only using organic materials) is considered to be “transitional” or “in transition.” The crops that are produced on it during this period of time are not certified organic. These crops will not be certified organic until three years have passed since the date of the last prohibited material was applied to the field.
While the certification process does force organic farms to keep good records, it does not prevent the use of non-organic substances on organic products. The certified organic process also permits farms to produce the same products both organically and non-organically. The potential for the intentional mixing of non-organic products into organic packaging can be very lucrative for dishonest farmers. The certification also lacks the legal authority to address farming methods (that have huge impacts on our environment and society) – they can only address what substances are applied to fields. The certification also fails to address the issues of corruption in third world countries, where many “certified organic” products are grown and shipped to theUnited Statesfor consumption.
My suggestion is to buy organic from a farm you know and a farm that you can visit. This is the only way to ensure you are getting a genuine product. All produce that our farm grows and delivers is genuinely certified. We farm with great care using sustainable methods to manage our precious resources – water, soil and energy in addition to employing safe work practices for our employees. These are the principles that our farm was founded with and the reason that our customer base continues to grow.