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Certified Organic - or Is It??

A recent request for particulars concerning the organic industry sent me on a search for more information concerning the wonderful world of organics. I am lucky enough to work in an office full of people who know all about this topic, and also have an endless supply of facts posted on not only this blog, but our Freshman Farmer blog as well. In the post, "What does it mean to grow organically," featured on this very blog, there is a broad definition of organic agriculture stating its basis as, farming or gardening "in rhythm with nature's laws in a sustainable manner that provides a healthy eco-system for all beings involved." This definition however, differs from the legal use of "organic" regulated by the federal government. The Federal Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, set a standard for those who practiced US organic farming in order to create a consistency in the word, and for its consumers, and the NOP (National Organic Program) set regulations in 2002 which impacts anyone who buys or sells organics.

Here at Peaceful Valley we have no problem providing any information that we have and which might help you in deciding if our products comply with the NOP regulations. While we are on the topic of our products, Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply does not assure the conformity of its products to the organic standards of any certifying agency. In our catalog and on our website, we do indicate which of our products pass OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) and NOP standards, however, we can't ALWAYS guarantee this accuracy based on the fact that the status of any product can change at any given time without our knowledge, thus meaning that for absolute assurance that  your products are truly organic, you should always check with these organizations.

Summary of NOP Standards

  • Certified organic crops must be grown on certified farmland that has not been treated with prohibited pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or other substances for at least three years.
  • Certified organic farmland soil health is maintained with crop rotation and other sustainable growing methods to eliminate toxic or persistent synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.
  • NOP strictly prohibits the use of genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, sewage sludge, antibiotics and growth hormones.
Certified organic farmers must follow NOP specifications to determine which materials (fertilizers, pesticides, etc) they can use. To avoid having to research NOP regulations in order to make decisions, a farmer may also rely on the OMRI or manufacturers' statements of compliance. *To look at the actual regulations, or speak with your certifying agency to make a decision. More About OMRI is an independent, nonprofit organization who evaluates the acceptability of products for organic use. OMRI is based in Eugene, OR, and was started in 1997 to benefit the organic community and general public. Before there was OMRI, it was the job of certifying agencies to determine which materials were allowed, regulated, or prohibited  in organic production. The primary mission of OMRI, is to provide information collection and dissemination  services, as well as expert analysis and recommendations regarding the use of products in organic production. Organic Farm Certifying Agencies On the same post as talked about earlier, we provide a small list of organic agencies. These agencies tend to work on the West Coast often, but their inclusion is in no way an endorsement by Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply.
  • International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM): Their main function is coordinating the network of the organic movement around the world. IFOAM is a democratic federation and is grassroots oriented. Their international "IFOAM basic standards of organic agriculture and food processing," is translated into 17 different languages.
  • California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF): This is a nonprofit, democratically organized membership association of organic farmers, food processors, handlers and retailers. They are the largest state based organization or organic interests in the nation and the primary certification association for the organic industry in California.
  • Oregon Tilth: Oregon Tilth is a nonprofit organization providing organic certification to growers, processors, and retailers, worldwide. This organization also advocated for and provides education about practices which creates and supports a healthful and sustainable food supply.

Organic Trade Association

Another really helpful source for information about the organic industry is the Organic Trade Association (OTA).

OTA gives the National Organic Standards Board definition of organic, which was decided in April of 1995. As defined by the board, "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' is a labeling term that denotes products produced under the authority of the Organic Foods Production Act. The principal guidelines for organic production are to use materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems and that integrate the parts of the farming system into an ecological whole."

According to OTA, when something is "certified organic" the item has been grown according to strict uniform standards that are verified by independent state or private organizations. Certification includes inspections of farm fields and processing facilities, detailed record keeping, and periodic testing of soil and water to ensure that growers and handlers are meeting the standards which have been set.

I am providing a link to the Q & A section of the OTA website. There is tons of wonderful information provided there and I encourage all interested in the business of organics to check it out.

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