PART 1: BENEFITS TO ENVIRONMENT & REGULATIONS REQUIRED TO CALL YOUR FARM, PRODUCE, OR ANIMAL PRODUCTS ORGANIC
Organic food is hot. It’s been booming in recent years and health enthusiasts everywhere tell us we should be eating organic if it’s a viable option to the consumer. But the price increase can be pretty substantial! What do you do when you can’t afford organic? Destined for cancer and premature death? Don’t fret. But it is important to be an informed consumer, as some populations may be affected more by the consumption and handling of conventional non-organic produce/meats/dairy than others.
But first, let me give a little background on organic farming practices.
The benefits of organic farming for the environment and farmers are overwhelming. Here are a few reasons why:
- Organic farming improves soil health as well as livelihood of insects and birds. Organic soil pulls and keeps more carbon in the soil and out of our atmosphere, reducing organic farms’ carbon footprint.
- Synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides (which have been shown to cause damage to a variety of beneficial species that are successful to all produce turnout, like bees, earthworms, butterflies, and birds) are not allowed in organic farms, thus reducing harm to the little creatures that thrive off of helping us eat delicious fruits and veggies. For this reason, pollinator services are protected.
- More appointing of organic farming practices also means less chemical runoff into local land and waterways.
- In many cases organic farms have less consumption of fossil fuels, energy, pesticide contamination, and waste in general.
- Finally, these farms are also more likely to do better in times of droughts, water scarcity, and extreme temperatures (all of which seem to be happening left and right lately).
If you ask me, all that sounds super-duper. So why aren’t organic farming practices being put in place by ALL farms? Well, there is a heavy set of strict regulations in the US that organic farms must abide by in order to use the much sought-after USDA Certified Organic Seal (fortunately the Agriculture Act of 2014, aka the Farm Bill, made things a little easier for organic farm goal-diggers).
For one, the farmer needs to pay up – inspection and certification by an accredited certifying agency doesn’t come free. For produce farms, obtaining certification takes at least 3 years since the land that produce grows on must be free of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides for 3 years, among other changes like swapping seeds for organic vs conventional.
Organic livestock resulting in meat, poultry, and dairy requires certification with its own heavy list of requirements as well. For example, the animal cannot be treated by any antibiotics or growth hormones (vaccinations are okay) during its life (though it is important to note treatment for a sick animal cannot be withheld to “keep the animal organic”), must be fed organic food most and in some instances all its life, and must have access to the outdoors year-round.
So now you know some of the basics about organic farming and what it takes to hang with the big (organic) shots. Stay tuned for my next blog posts in this series about everything organic.