We have seen our food labeled with the word “organic”, but what does organic really mean in relation to the fruits, vegetables, and meat products that most of us consume on a daily basis? According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the production of organic foods does not simply mean the avoidance of conventional chemicals. Organic farming supports overall system health by implementing a wide range of management practices to ensure biological diversity and soil fertility.
Organic farmers apply techniques used thousands of years ago, such as crop rotations and natural pest management in ways that are economically sustainable in today’s world. In order to ensure that you are getting a certified organic product, it is recommended to look for the USDA Certified Label on your food product:
USDA ORGANIC Food Label
When you buy food products that have the USDA ORGANIC label, you are buying a product that has been produced using the quality standards that are required by the USDA in order for them to label a food as organic. The USDA does not guarantee that organic agricultural practices are completely free of all synthetic chemical residues, but the methods that are used will minimize the pollution from our air, soil and water to the best of their ability.
The key factors that comprise organic farming principles include:
- Reduction or elimination of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, hormones, and antibiotics.
- Use of crop rotations to manage weeds and maintain long-term soil health.
- Soil conservation, water cleanliness, and practices that restore ecological balance.
What Defines an Organic Food Product?
The USDA defines organic vegetables, meat, poultry, & dairy products as the following:
“Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.” Consumer Brochure, USDA National Organic Program
Get Involved with your Local CSA
In order to learn more about organic food, there is no better way than to get involved with a local organic farm that offers a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. In a CSA, you become a shareholder of that farm. You prepay a sum of money at the beginning of the year which allows farmers to buy the seeds and other supplies they need for the season. You reap the rewards of the bounty that is distributed as the produce becomes available for harvest.
The Moose Hill Farm CSA
I am grateful to have discovered a USDA certified organic CSA close to my home. It is the Farm at Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in Sharon, Massachusetts. Community is an important part of all CSAs, and Moose Hill is no exception. The members have like-minded goals. They care about the quality of food they put into their body and preserving the farm for future generations.
Here is a short video clip of the Moose Hill Farm CSA. I love the personalization of the harvesting – at the end of this video, the names of the people who helped with the harvesting and preparation of the fruits and vegetables are listed, reminding us that we are all in this together. Nice touch!
Growth of Organic Agriculture in the United States
According to the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, there has been a steady growth in the number of U.S. certified organic farms and businesses since the count began in 2002. In April of 2017, the USDA reported 24,650 certified organic farming operations in the United States, a 70 percent increase since 2008. This steady growth reflects an increased awareness by the general public regarding the value of organic food products.
The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of the soil, plants, animals and people. Organic farming involves much more than choosing not to use synthetic pesticides, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics and growth hormones. The organic process is a holistic system designed to be sustainable and harmonious with the environment, ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy the healthy produce and food products that we enjoy today.
The author, Susan Kapatoes, MHA is the founder of Inspire Your Journey, a holistic wellness company. She is a Wellness Partner with Amare Global, and an Independent Distributor with BEMER Therapy and Healy World. She lives in Massachusetts.