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In our new video, Tricia shops for organic produce at a farmers’ market and talks about what “organic” means. With fruits and vegetables it means they were grown organically.
But who sets the rules that determine something is “organically grown”?
Actually, several groups can do that. It’s sort of an alphabet soup of organizations, but we’ll lay it all out for you here.
First of all, the big kahuna is the USDA and its National Organic Program. In a nutshell, the USDA defines “organic” as “a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.”
The USDA makes the determinations of which farms and businesses meet organic standards by doing on-site, rubber-boots-on-the-ground inspections. They can’t carry it all out themselves so they also work with selected organizations that make these certifying inspections in their regional areas.
The precursor to the USDA’s role was CCOF in California. Founded in 1973 by local organic farmers, CCOF continues to advocate for organic farming, and is the leading official organic certifier for the USDA. For instance, Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply has been certified by CCOF as an organic seed handler.
Oregon Tilth is another local group that acts as an organic certifier for the USDA.
What do organic farmers use in their fields? Organic seeds, from companies like us, plus farming supplies that are certified by OMRI (the Organic Materials Review Institute). Created in the late 1980s by CCOF and Oregon Tilth as a materials and testing program, OMRI is now the primary organic materials review clearinghouse in the country.
So there you have it—the cast of characters that evaluate organic farms. Next time you buy organic produce at a farmers’ market or the grocery store you’ll know what’s behind that “organic” label.
Jul 27th, 2013 at 10:37 am
Checking on seeds for next summer