Organic – Defined

Organic agriculture is often reduced to what it is not; e.g.- it does NOT use toxic pesticides or synthetic fertilizer, it does NOT allow GMO inputs. While these practices are vital and true, organic is much more than the sum of what it avoids. Organic farmers are builders of soil, creative problem solvers, pollinator protectors and conscientious stewards of our land.

Organic farmers are intensively working to build life not simply snuff out the offending weed or pest.

“Feed the soil, not the plant” is at the heart of the Organic movement.

Organic farmers use compost, cover crops (such as nitrogen-rich alfalfa) and crop rotation to feed the soil. Plants grown in healthy soil are better able to protect themselves from pests and disease. There is a growing body of scientific evidence confirming what we know intuitively:  healthy soil= healthy food= healthy bodies. Studies show that organically grown fruits and vegetables offer more of some nutrients, including vitamin C, iron, magnesium and phosphorus, and less exposure to nitrates and pesticide residues than their conventional cousins.

Ecologists often use biodiversity as a measure of the health of an ecosystem.

Organic farmers promote biodiversity through many of their practices that simultaneously increase productivity including: crop rotation, the use of livestock manures and strategic companion planting. Through all of these methods, organic farmers prevent soil erosion, help protect local wildlife, pollinators, streams and watersheds.

Lest we think all the benefits are happening at a microscopic soil level- organic farmer are also heroes in the big picture of protecting our global environment. Organic agriculture can play a significant role in both reducing GHG emissions, such as carbon dioxide as well as the sequestering carbon.

A quick Google will turn up a dozen articles and blogs on “why to buy organic” and “is it really worth it?” Perhaps the real question to pose is “How could such a life affirming system not be worth it?” Organic agriculture is an investment in our future and the bonus is we get to enjoy the delicious bounty of its harvest in the here and now.


By Maureen Kirkpatrick – Standards Coordinator