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How to find organically grown foods, pesticide free fruits and vegetables and organic farms

People often ask where they can find an organic PYO farm.  A few U-pick farms are, most aren't. Some follow the practices, without seeking certification (getting certified can be expensive).  I

To help consumers choose the farm that meets their own needs, we allow farmers to identify their farm as one of the following:

  • Conventional farming
  • Certified organic for all crops
    Certified organic for some crops
  • Certified naturally grown for some crops
    Certified naturally grown for all crops
  • Uses natural organic practices, and are subject to the NOP small quantity exemption
  • Uses natural practices, but are not yet certified Organic
  • Uses natural practices, but are not seeking organic certification.
  • Uses integrated pest management practices (IPM)
  • Does not use pesticides on the crops
  • Minimizes use of pesticides and other chemicals.

 

Most of these definitions ought to be self-explanatory.  Some have legal definitions (click the links above).

Organic

TThe term "organic" has acquired a strict legal definition that really requires a detailed explanation.  You may actually decide that a NON-organic food is better (safer, tastier, healthier) for you!  That's what happens when you lt the government regulate somethign and decide what "organic" means. Many farmers ahve made the decision that being organic is NOT better for their customers, their animals or the environment. So, see this page for a detailed explantion of the what "organic" crops means.

Certified Naturally Grown (CNG)

Certified Naturally Grown is referred to as  "The Grassroots Alternative to Certified Organic" because it is simpler to administer and a less expensive alternative to the USDA's National Organic Program (NOP) certification, using a production standard based on the NOP.. CNG is a US-based farm assurance program certifying produce, livestock and apiaries for organic producers who sell locally and directly to their customers.  CNG was founded in 2002 by organic farmers Kate and Ron Khosla. It is operated as a non-profit corporation, headquartered in Brooklyn, New York.

Integrated pest management (IPM),

Integrated Pest Management, also known as integrated pest control (IPC) is a broad-based approach that integrates practices for economic control of pests. IPM aims to suppress pest populations below the economic injury level (EIL). IPM is an ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests or their damage through a combination of techniques such as biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, and use of resistant varieties. Pesticides are used only after monitoring indicates they are needed according to established guidelines, and treatments are made with the goal of removing only the target organism. Pest control materials are selected and applied in a manner that minimizes risks to human health, beneficial and nontarget organisms, and the environment.

Natural Practices

TThere is no strict definition for this. Here's what the FDA says about it.  The word "natural" in marketing can mean almost anything, but when used ethically, it means avoiding chemical pesticides, fungicides and methods that wouldn't have been used in an earlier time, prior to 1940.

What should you, the consumer do at the farm?/h2>

If the farm isn't certified (or following the small quantity exemption), I always ask when they last sprayed any pesticides or fungicides, or anything else chemical, and what they used. And why it was used and what health impacts tehre are to it.Most farmers can and will explain it to you.

Is organic food better for me and my family?

The USDA makes no claims that organically produced food is safer or more nutritious than conventionally produced food.  In fact, Consumer Reports found NO, let me repeat NO differences in nutritional value between organic and non organic grown foods. Of course, "nutritional value" does not include the impact of pesticide or fungicide resides, which is a different topic. I certainly don't want to eat pesticide or fungicide residues!

Organic food differs from conventionally produced food in the way it is grown, handled, and processed.  Some are considered "better", but for some foods it may not really make a difference (in terms of health benefits).  An example of the latter is fruits with a thick inedible skin, like bananas, avocados or oranges.  Studies show that pesticides applied  do not enter the edible portions.  And in processed foods studies again show that there is no measurable difference between organic and non-organic.  For example, a jar of organic spaghetti sauce has the same nutritional value as the non-organic variety. The biggest difference come sin fresh and frozen unprocessed fruits and vegetables. In general, though, it is safe to safe that organic , and more particularly, "sustainably grown" foods are better overall, considering the nutritional value, absence of chemical residues, and less adverse affect upon the environment.

A number of recent studies, articles and reports conclude that nutritional analysis shows few or no measurable differences:

  • The Mayo Clinic - "No conclusive evidence shows that organic food is more nutritious than is conventionally grown food. And the USDA — even though it certifies organic food — doesn't claim that these products are safer or more nutritious."
  • CNN - "But no matter how the product is labeled, Avery said the message should be clear: 'The label does not imply organic food is healthier, safer or better for you in any way. It's purely a marketing label.' "

.... which stands to reason. A plant's structure ought not to be able to know the difference between a nitrate ion dissolved in the water in the soil that can from a bag of fertilizer, or one that cam from cow manure.  After all, NO3 is NO3.  And certainly the freshness of the food, how it is handled, stored and transported would likely impact nutritional content far more than organic / non-organic production.

But that is not to say that there are not important reasons; health, personal, environmental and social to prefer organically raised foods. Pesticide residues, for example, wouldn't be measure in a nutritional analysis, but they certainly could affect your long term health and potential for cancers or other illnesses.

Consumer Reports says that it does make sense to buy these foods grown organically: Apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach, strawberries, Meat, poultry, eggs, dairy and baby foods.

A Downside to Organic?

Yes, there is.  If you have been following the news for the past 10 years, you may have noticed the dramatic rise in food poisoning cases arising from consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables. Especially, E. coli.  With few exceptions, that comes from organically raised crops or those using manures rather than chemical fertilizers. Do you give your children a Flintsones chewable vitamin? Chemical fertilizers, like "Miracle-Gro" or a bag of common "10-10-10" that you can buy at  Home Depot, are essentially, the same thing for plants.  There's NO way they can hurt you, the consumer of the produce.  Yes, if the farm uses too much and it runs off into streams, it can cause an algae bloom and other environmnetal issues.  But since fertilizers are expensive, any farmer who isn't a moron, uses it as carefully as possible,

References:

Most references are included above within the passages, a few are added here separately:

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