In our nation's endeavor to pursue health the interest in organic products has reached new heights. From local farmer's markets to big box chains, the term organic has been branded on many consumable items. Conscious consumers are buying more organic products and produce than ever. However, shoppers need to be aware of what is truly considered organic produce and the best organic farming practices that are required.
Just because a product is labeled organic, does not mean that it complies with the Federal guidelines. In order for a packaged product to be accepted, it must pass the Federal approval process and is then labeled certified organic. There is a misconception that organic agriculture simply means the lack of use of pesticides. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is a Federal advisory board that has been established to working with the FDA on the definitions and legislation that is involved in establishing organic legislation. The best organic farming practices involve not only the lack of pesticides and insecticides, but is a full management system using established practices that maintain, restore and keep a balance of ecological harmony.
Organic farming in the United States reaches back as far as 1940 when J.I. Rodale published his magazine called Organic Farming and Gardening. Rodale promoted all aspects of the health of soil as well as no pesticide use. Environmentalists have used Rodale's concepts as the benchmark for the best organic farming practices.
The USDA developed the National Organic Standard in 2002. To receive the USDA Certified Organic stamp of approval, a farm muse comply with all of the guidelines established:
The concept of biodiversity includes a diverse group of processes to keep the land and soil healthy: Crop mixtures that promote beneficial organisms and aid in the management of pests as well as pollination. The planting of companion crops and crop rotation to nourish and replenish the soil nutrients assists in the natural balance.
The second level of organic farming is called "Diversification and Integration of Enterprises". This includes the use of diversified resources and recycled methods to enhance the growing process. An example might be for an organic farmer to recycle unused portions of a crop back to farm animals and then use the manure to fertilize the fields.
Organic farmers must offer a level of sustainability. In other words, longevity of existence for the organization. The increased interests in organic food sources are adding a higher profit margin for the organic farming community and offer a better level of sustainability.
The integrity of the farmer is also a high priority. This refers to the best management practices regarding record keeping and reporting, to assure that the consumer receives a truly organic product.
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