Tuesday, March 18, 2014

If I Can't Call it "Organic," What do I Call It?

Starting last year we began transitioning a piece of our property separated by a hedgerow in a slightly different direction than the rest of the farm.  This season will be the very first year we will be offering vegetables that are...grown from certified organic and untreated seeds and not sprayed with any synthetic herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers.

Further more, but items that are not new to us, crop rotation, cover cropping, compost, heirloom seeds, and non-GMO seeds.

For all intents and purposes we will have almost 4 acres of production that we could get certified.  

Rules are in place that say if I do not choose to certify the portion of the farm that I produce vegetables grown using organic practices I can not use the word "Organic."

There are a lot of people that throw caution to the wind and post "Organic" all over every sign, flier, and business card they have.  However, I don't want some disgruntled person with a clip board and a passion for making an example out of someone to show up at my door.

Quite a few uncertified farmers have gotten creative in trying to get across the point that they are "Organic" with out doing mountains of paper work and paying money to say the word.  Yes, to be certified requires a lot of paper work and a hefty fee.

Other Terms I've come Across for "Organic": 
  • eco-ganic
  • natural (not the same thing but people use it that way)
  • responsibly grown
  • bio dynamic
  • old fashioned
  • grown using organic practices
  • sustainable (there thousands of definitions for this one)
  • un-certified organic
  • beyond organic (these are farmers who want to surpass the organic standards)
  • no synthetics
  • unconventional
I agree there should be some system in place, like certification, to protect the consumer.  But I'm not going to make myself crazy to be certified when we're an open book.  I love your questions. I love visitors...if you visit you will be put to work...and you will hopefully love it!   
In the USA Today article, "Organic' certification gives farmers a tough row to hoe," the author offers a good point and a great quote
"Maintaining paperwork required to be USDA certified organic is more than many can handle. Salatin says he would need another full-time staffer. 
"Some farmers "are no longer playing the organic licensing game due to its onerous bureaucratic qualities," Salatin says. "And it does not address many of the important variables — like techniques for soil fertility, weeding and employee treatment."
Hmm...what to call my un-certified organic vegetables?  I started by describing them as vegetables grown using organic practices but I'm not sure I like it.

I do however like "unconventional."                                                                                                      

This past January I met with one of our seed sales reps who used to call on my parents.  As we were going through what I wanted to order based on my goals, he (Jim), paused for a moment and said, "The acorn sure fell far from the tree.  Your parents were so conventional!  Where did you come up with these ideas?"

We laughed. And I'm pretty sure he secretly thinks I'm nuts.

I like unconventional because I want to try to always be outside the box, creative, inspired and open.  

So for me, my fancy synonym-like word will be "Unconventional."      

On a final and fun note....in my travels through the internets, I came across a really neat item offered by the Connecticut North Eastern Organic Farming Association.  It's a Farmers Pledge and it lists a lot of wonderful-ness.  I quite love it and think it's a worthwhile pledge to make.  Take a look....


  1. Great post Rose! I work for a company which raises and markets both organic and conventional produce. The organic certification process is extremely detailed and thorough and one which is also renewed and certified every year. To maintain our certification a physical inspection is conducted by a third-party auditor of our growing areas, production methods, and documentation. The USDA is the governing agency which established and maintains the organic standards within the United States. The National Organic Program (NOP) is the part of the USDA which oversees the organic topics. Anyone interested to learn more about all things organic, farmers and the public alike, can visit the USDA websites, blog, or National Organic Program (NOP) links. Of note, their are even several "levels" of organic certification-100% to various degrees of partially organic-dependent upon the ingredients or production practices. Even the gross revenue of products sold in a year can determine if an operation needs [organic] certification or not. From my experience and research, if a grower raises their products with organic certified seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and production practices-but is not USDA certified organic-they can call/label their goods as "natural." (To all of you now gasping in disbelief-Yes, there are certified- and labeled organic pesticides.) The annual organic certification inspection and recertification is expensive to the grower. Additionally, the producers of organic certified seeds, fertilizers, packaging, pesticides, etc. also go through this same annual inspection and recertification process annually. Hence, the higher prices/costs of organic and natural foods. In closing, the entire organic certification program is outlined on the USDA/NOP webpages. Included are terms and definitions, policies, guidelines, FAQ's-lots of other great links and resources for growers and consumers. I hope my experience and "two-scents" have been helpful to all.

    1. Hey! Thanks for posting all that great info. I wasn't aware of being able to use the term "natural"....very interesting. For now I think I'll stick to "unconventional."

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