Protects Our Health Organic food production limits the release of toxic chemicals into the environment and into our food supply. By eating organic foods you support a healthy lifestyle for yourself, your children, and for farm workers in the fields.
Supports the Environment Organic agriculture positively effects the environment by creating a long term farming solution which sustains our land and water resources, as well as supports the balance of our natural ecosystems.
Protects our Waters Organic agriculture does not use chemicals that will pollute our ground water, a primary source of drinking water.
Creates a Diverse Ecosystem Organic farming practices respect and support of our environmental diversity by allowing a wide variety of plant species and wild animals to thrive in their natural habitats.
Organic Farms Build Soil Organic agriculture builds the topsoil on the fields and keeps it from eroding into our waterways.
Saves Our Energy Resources Because organic farming does not rely on petroleum based chemicals for crop production, it requires less non-renewable resources to operate. Instead, organic farmers rely on cover crops, plant rotation and natural insect control which does not involve the use of synthetic chemicals.
No Genetic Modification Organic foods are never genetically modified or engineered, nor are they ever irradiated.
Organic Product Meets Stringent Standards The Organic certification process ensures that crops have been grown and handled according to the strict standards put forth by the USDA National Organic Standards, assuring that no toxic chemicals have been used in the growing and handling process. http://www.ams.usda.gov/nosb
Definition of Organic This definition of "organic" was passed by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) at its April 1995 meeting in Orlando, FL.
"Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony."
Organic Certification For a grower or processor to become certified, they must adhere to strict uniform standards which are verified by either a private or public certifying agency. These standards include:
- The land on which the organic food is grown must be free of prohibited substances for three years prior to certification.
- Farmers and processors must keep detailed records of the farming methods and their materials used in production.
- All of these methods and materials are inspected annually by a third party certifying agent.
- All farmers and handlers are required to maintain written plans detailing their organic management practices.
The Cost Of Organic Food Organically grown foods typically cost more than conventionally produced foods because organic production must meet stricter regulations for growing, harvesting, transporting and storage of food. This forces the process to be more labor and management intensive; driving up the cost of production. In addition, government programs do not subsidize organic farming. With the indirect costs of conventional farming, including cleanup of polluted waters, replacement of eroded soils, costs of health care for farmers and their workers, the evidence is strong that the cost of organic food production may actually be equal to or even less than conventional food production. For further reading on this issue you can download the PDF file entitled "The True Cost of Organic Produce".
Nutritional Value of Organic Foods There is no conclusive evidence that organic foods are more nutritious than conventionally grown foods. However, by not ingesting potentially harmful pesticides, fungicides, insecticides, and fertilizers on organic food, you are spared the health risks that have been associated with the use of these chemicals.
Organic Acreage Organic Farming is practiced in approximately 100 countries throughout the world, with nearly 57 million acres now under organic management. North America has more than 3.7 million acres.
The World of Organic Agriculture 2003-Statistics and Future Prospects, February 2003. http://www.ifoam.org/ or http://www.soel.de/inahlte/publikationen/s/s_74.pdf.
How Many Organic Farms? According to chairman Anthony Rodale in a talk at the Organic Trade Association's 2003 All Things Organic( Conference and Trade Show in Austin, TX, in May 2003), certified organic U.S. farmers now number approximately 12,200.
The Rodale Institute, http://www.newfarm.org/news/050103/0528/100,000.shtml.
Consumer Demand and Availability "Consumer demand rose throughout the 1990s - 20% or more annually - and that pace has continued. Organic products are now available in nearly 20,000 natural foods stores and 73% of conventional grocery stores, and account for approximately 1-2% of total food sales in the United States.
Catherine Greene and Carolyn Dimitri, in Amber Waves, February 2003, USDA's Economic Research Service, http://www.ers.usda.gov/amberwaves/feb03/findings/organicagriculture.htm.
One of the most enjoyable ways to become familiar with organic food is to simply grow your own. There is something very special about harvesting fresh organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs that you have grown yourself. You don't need to have a big garden to enjoy this simple pleasure. Some seeds, compost, a few tools, and a small outdoor area is all you need to get started. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you begin your organic gardening adventure:
Organic Seeds To have a true organic garden you will need to begin with organic seeds. Two well known organic seed companies are Seeds of Change and Sow Organic Seed. The company Appropriate Transfer Technology for Rural Areas (ATTRA) has an excellent listing of where to find organic and untreated seeds.
Your Tools Most likely, you already have the tools you need in your shed or garage. A shovel, hoe, rake and digging claw should be all you need. A pair of garden gloves can come in handy, but they are not necessary.
Making and Using Compost Good compost is one of the keys to a successful organic garden. Using organic matter to replenish the nutrients of the soil is critical for keeping your soil productive. It is compost that will give your soil that dark, rich color. Building a compost bin is helpful, but certainly not necessary. All that you need is a pile that is 3 by 3 by 3 feet - one that will have enough mass to decompose without a bin. For a detailed description on actually making and applying compost visit: http://www.nugget.demon.co.uk/MetaFAQ/organic.html#heap
Sharing the Bounty There is nothing like harvest time - picking and eating food from your own back yard! A great way to get others interested and excited about organic gardening is to share your harvest with your good friends and neighbors.
Be Patient It may take a few years of composting and working your soil to get your garden in optimal shape. Be patient in the interim. Each year you should see stronger yields, larger crops, and more flavorful food.
Have Fun Most importantly, you should have fun with your garden. When you are working the earth, take the time to feel the soil beneath your knees, and enjoy the sun as it warms your shoulders, and don't forget to acknowledge the breeze as it blows across your face. It is these very simple pleasures that every farmer knows are his/her blessings.
United Natural Foods (UNFI) - http://www.unfi.com United Natural Foods is the largest publicly traded wholesale distributor to the natural and organic foods industry and the parent Company of Albert's Organics.
Quality Assurance International (QAI) - http://www.qai-inc.com QAI provides certification services and is the agency that has currently certified Albert's Organics.
Organic Trade Association (OTA) - http://www.ota.com OTA's mission is to encourage global sustainability through promoting and protecting the growth of diverse organic trade.
Organic Center for Education and Promotion - http://www.organic-center.org The Organic Center for Education and Promotion communicates credible, peer-reviewed organic benefits to society, resulting in the conversion of agriculture to organic methods.
National Organic Program - http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop USDA's National Organic Program, which develops and implements national organic standards.
UC Sustainable Ag. Research & Education - http://www.sarep.ucdavis.edu University of California sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, providing information about sustainable agriculture.
Environmental Defense - http://www.environmentaldefense.org The Environmental Defense links science, economics and law to create innovative, equitable and cost-effective solutions to society's most urgent environmental problems.
EPA-Office of Pesticide Programs - http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/food
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) - http://www.nrdc.org The NRDC is one of the nation's most effective environmental action organizations.
Organic Consumers Association (OCA) - http://www.organicconsumers.org The OCA is a grassroots nonprofit public interest organization which deals with crucial issues of food safety, industrial agriculture, genetic engineering, corporate accountability, and environmental sustainability.