Don’t Panic- its Organic!


Maybe.. the real Sh!z doesnt need labels

Second semester freshman year I fell in love with a challenging/interesting course; Fundamentals of Organic Agriculture(FAO for short- hey- Cheers to an environmental liberal arts education!) That was 5 years ago… and my oh my has the industry grown. With a boom in young farmers and a big jump in the general pop’s excitement toward healthy food, organic has become a household term thrown evvvvvverywhere. In that first 3 hour class my professor assigned us an impromptu- debate(classic liberal arts) on the varying sides of organic agriculture. Questions flew across the room accompanied by quick well prepared rebuttles. I kept quiet.

turns out i didn’t know jack about organic.

And in all honesty I don’t think most have a clue what organic really is, we name drop it left and right hoping someone doesn’t call our bluff asking us why we choose organic, how its important (including myself). So here’s some history, it may help a bit…

DONT PANIC …. ITS ORGANIC

1905-  Sir Abert Howard set off from England to Indore India to become an “agriculture advisor”. Instead of advising he became the student, and brought back his learnings of soil health, composting, regenerative practices etc. etc. to the US & UK through his book An Agricultural Testament– Classic organic farming text. No I have not read, yes I will soon.

1940-The Organic movement began in the US through JI Rodale’s publishing work. A playwright, editor, & author Rodale used his influence in print to familiarise our fav word organic with pesticide free (influenced by Sir Albert Howard). Keep in mind, these methods are nothing new, Sir Albert Howard is a messenger not the creator in this wild ride. Indian agriculture techniques found in Howard’s book were traditional ancient agriculture techniques.

1970(s) Organic industry grew, and so did environmental awareness. Growing too fast for its own good, there wasn’t enough of a structure developed to support its size. States were the ones regulating which meant the standards varied per region… giving the term organic no uniformity.

1990-Congress passes OFPA (Organic Foods Production Act) with the attempt to set up a national standard.

2002- Rules begin to be implemented (yay!) For the most part, this is what they consist of:

  • Land must be free of pesticides/ chemicals etc three years before you even think of being certified organic
  • No use of genetic engineering (GMO)
  • Crop rotation, cover crops, animal crop waste should be implemented, use of synthetic materials is allowed
  • preffered organic seeds
  • Pests (including weeds & diseases) will be initially controlled by management practices but basically if all else fails … use a substance that is approved by the national list..
  • animals must be fed 100% organic feed
  • no hormones or antibiotics for any reason (preventative measures can be used including vaccines- producer MUST give medical attention if required, however that animal will no longer be sold as “organic”)
  • All organic meat must have access to the outdoors, pasture for ruminants (info found at http://Www.sare.org )

Then…. Organic went mainstream

Although the original thought is exciting, massive growth in the organic movement moves it farther and farther away from it’s roots. Eco-friendly systems that focuses on connection between farmer & consumer kind of diminish. Prioritizing healthy soil loses focus as assembly lines grow.

Michael Pollan’s (author of Omnivores Dilemma-highly reccomendspoke to the topic of Big Ag in an article from Organic Consumer’s Assosciation “If organic agriculture means anything it should mean that the food has a lighter environmental footprint, its really the supermarket shopper that drives the industrialization” He urges environmentally conscious shoppers to shop their local markets instead of heading straight for the ORGANIC label.

Currently there are 8,760 year round farmers markets in the U.S. So lets get go! IF you live in the NYC area you sure are a lucky ducky, there are tons and tons of local options thanks to GROWNYC. If you aren’t in the area, no worries, you can find a farmers market near you at: https://www.ams.usda.gov/local-food-directories/farmersmarkets 

Share with me your seasonal finds!

Leave a Reply