Today's Letter for the A to Z Challenge is "O" so I'm touching on something that is important to us, but has turned into something of a catch phrase, Organic.
What does organic really mean? According to the Dictionary it's is something that is made from living matter. That covers a lot of things and isn't very exact. I think that is where we run into so much trouble when we talk about organic foods. The USDA defines organic food to have been grown with out pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or genetically modified organisms.
It's tough and expensive for a farm to become certified "organic" by the USDA, as well as it should be. But do you know that they have levels of organic? There is 100% organic, which is just like it sounds. Then there is Organic, which is only 95% organically grown. That leaves a bit of wiggle room. What's the other 5%? Roundup? They say not, they do have an approved list of other ingredients allowed. Why they need both labels, I don't understand, it's organic or it's not. Then the one which is probably most popular with large farmers, Made with Organic Ingredients. This one is is only 70% organic but that other 30% can be anything that is not a GMO. For Animals raised for Eggs or meat they can't be given any antibiotics or growth hormones. Does that take into account what they are fed? I don't think so.
Is it as important as it sounds? Do organic veggies taste better, have more vitamins? No, it's still a carrot but maybe it's more about what's not on or in it. If you don't want a tomato sprayed with sludge or roundup, that would put you on the side of organic. Do you have to buy everything organic? That's personal opinion but I would say there are some veggies and fruits that it is a better bet to by organically that others. Wither or not you eat the skin, where the majority of the pesticides reside, is a good basis of choice when thinking about organic or not. Strawberries, grapes, peaches, spinach, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and blueberries are some of the things we buy organic. If you are buying conventional then stick with cantaloupes, pineapples, onions, mango and avocados.
Growing organically at home is easy, if you have a larger area and want to sell your produce or livestock as organic then to start with it takes a few years. Nutrients have to be introduced back into the farming area for a period of two years, then if you have followed all of the guidelines and completed all of the forms you will be tested for residue and if you pass that then you can call your products organic. It sounds like a good system but it can be overwhelming for farms. The amount of money that it takes and the amount of hours for paperwork can take more time than is available.
If a vegetable farm goes organic, you know that they truly care about the environment and their responsibility to their consumers
If you are interested the USDA handbook can be found here.
Check back on Saturday for "P". We're working on a garden project that will give big results but doesn't take up much space!