DEFINITION IS THE FIRST STEP TO UNDERSTANDING
We all come to every conversation and discussion with preconceived ideas. The same word can paint widely variant images to every person engaged in conversation. Organic is one of those words.
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary Organic means:
- of food : grown or made without the use of artificial chemicals
- not using artificial chemicals
- of, relating to, or obtained from living things
Most people think that the Organic label means that Organic is healthy for you, even if the list of ingredients is a paragraph long and comes in an aluminum can. The word organic is NOT synonymous with healthy, it is a growing methodology that uses natural methods.
According to the USDA, it is a labeling program that farmers and manufacturers can buy into that allows them to put a ‘Certified Organic’ sticker on their product.
“Retail sales of Organic foods was $6 billion in 1999 with about 12,200 organic farmers nationwide, most with small-scale operations. Organic farming encompasses both crop and animal production and is defined as “ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity.”‘Organic’ is a labeling term that denotes products produced under the authority of the U.S. Organic Foods Production Act. “The principal guidelines are to use materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems. Organic agriculture practices do not ensure that products are completely free of residues; however, methods must be used to minimize contamination.” Organic food handlers, processors and retailers must adhere to standards that maintain the integrity of organic agricultural products. This includes practices such as minimizing or eliminating the use of herbicides in crop production and antibiotics in animal production.”
Organic at our Farm meant: growing everything (fruits, flowers, herbs, grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, chickens and grasses) within the balance of nature; without the use of poisons of any kind.
To us it meant: paying attention to our environment, feeding the earthworms as they in turn fed our soil, giving chickens ‘their chickennes’ (thank you Joel Salatin). Adopting the philosophy of caretaking every living thing to its full and natural state across the entire farm, be it creature or plant. The question was always: How do we grow, harvest and distribute everything to its highest possible potential so that the people eating our food got the best product possible. Each sprout we placed into a bag and every seed we put onto a tray was done with love. We proudly sold only what we ourselves would feed ourselves and our families.
We paid our employees a ‘living wage’ and made sure that their work conditions were comfortable, that the tools were in good shape and their hours reasonable. Our health insurance policy was that everyone could take home all the food they needed. Our hierarchy was: the man who owned the land came first, the folks who lived on site second, the folks who worked there and their families third and our friends who always came to lend a hand or feed us while we worked, none ever left our sphere hungry or left the farm without armloads of free produce.
Respect of resources was very important to us and we chose to expend more physical energy rather than important soil additives from too far away. By bringing in as few outside resources as possible and making all of our own compost we are able to control our soil health. The delivery driver picked up veggie waste, the spent wheatgrass matts, our unsold sprouts, greens, and coffee grounds from the stores we supplied. As much as possible we strove to imitate natures cycles and be respectful to give all living things in our care their ‘own-ness’.
That is what ORGANIC still means to me, an ethic in how you conduct your business NOT simply a label or a lack of chemicals. Organic is a word that has been maligned, confused and given meanings that were never intended. Maybe we were extremists but we are content to stand alone in our conviction to: charge fair prices, pay fair wages, provide healthy work environment, mimic the patterns of nature, grow to nurture the highest quality, and use no poison.