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Old 02-27-2009, 10:35 AM   #1
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So what does "certified organic" mean, exactly? I'm curious because my local seemingly organic farm (called Tangerini's) doesn't participate in the official certification thingamajig. On their website they say:

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At Tangerini Farms CSA, Green manures and legume cover crops are planted to fix nitrogen, build soil organic matter, and prevent erosion. Seeds are organic when available, with inclusion of heirloom and open pollinated varieties. We control pests primarily through the use of crop rotations, biological insecticides, mechanical and hand weeding, and cultural practices such as the use of row covers and trap crops.

Our practices are guided by the National Organic Standards and by our own goals for achieving a sustainable system. Because the CSA farmers and crew have personal interactions and relationships with the shareholders, we find it an unnecessary step to apply for, or pay the expenses of, federal organic certification. We invite all shareholders and farm visitors to spend a day with us, walk through our fields and check out our compost - come see for yourself how we farm.
What are those National Organic Standards they speak of?
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Old 02-27-2009, 11:24 AM   #2
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I suspect that it is the record keeping requirements that discourage some farms from seeking and maintaining organic certification. Its not enough to grow your crops without the use of toxic pesticides and certain chemical fertilizers, you have to prove that you did so, with paper records to back up your claims. In my opinion, any local farm that invites you to come over for a visit is trustworthy, unless they require that you visit only on Tuesdays.
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Old 02-27-2009, 09:59 PM   #3
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Some of those fertilizers I see stamped as being organic aren't all that organic to me. I'd like somebody to do some 'splainin.
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Old 02-27-2009, 11:48 PM   #4
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Vermont's website seems to spell out the details fairly well of what is necessary for organic certification in different categories - vegetables, poultry/eggs, maple syrup, etc.

http://www.nofavt.org/programs/organic-certification
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Old 02-28-2009, 10:53 AM   #5
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The USDA Definition of organic "farming":

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Organic farming is a production system which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetically compounded fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators, and livestock feed additives.

To the maximum extent feasible, organic farming systems rely on crop rotation, crop residues, animal manures. legumes, green manures, off-farm organic waste, mechanical cultivation, mineral-bearing rocks, and aspects of biological pest control to maintain soil productivity and tilth, to supply plant nutrients, and to control insects, weeds and other pests.


And yes, there is paperwork from hell to get and maintain this certification. Evidently it's gotten to the point that a lot of small growers have dropped out of the program because of volume of paperwork and costs associated with it don't make it worth it for them to continue. To much "big brother" is here to help you stuff, especially for small mom and pop operations.
There is currently a major fight going on between the organic produce folks and the chemical fertilizer giants. The object was to weaken the requirements to meet the certification, so chemically manufactured products and also the GMO veggies could be included under this label. That ain't workin. Monsanto and their buddies would like very much for this to go away and have been trying to "gut it" for over 20 years, so far they aren't doing so well, I'm glad to report.
There has to be a better, more streamlined and cost effective way to regulate this industry to enable more "small" organic producers to meet the criteria without breaking the bank. Evidently the new EPA secretary is more open to this type of thinking so maybe down the line we can all benefit.
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Old 02-28-2009, 11:07 AM   #6
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The way I see it, if the farmer does not want to seek and maintain organic certification, then it is up to the customer to satisfy himself/herself that the produce is indeed "organic". This might be easy enough to do if the farm is local, and if the owners encourage customers to visit and look around. In a sense, the customer becomes the certifier, not the USDA.
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Old 02-28-2009, 11:11 AM   #7
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That's what's happening here locally, erictjohnson. Many of the folks at the local farmer's market do grow organic only but are not "certified", so use the term natural. It takes about 5 minutes of conversation to figure out if they know what they are talking about. Some are reluctant to allow visitors not because of their gardening practices but because of liability issues.
Another "sign" of organically grown produce means it doesn't look "perfect". Their will be blemishes etc on the produce. They have these neat instruments they call "paring knives" and work well to remove those blemishes. The food still tastes great! LOL
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Old 02-28-2009, 12:55 PM   #8
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http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/id/QAA344288

Here's what Dr. Weil had to say about recent changes in the certification process:

QUOTED:


We don't know for sure that there's anything wrong with the certification of organic foods, but a nonprofit organization, the Center for Food Safety (CFS), is suing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for failing to release information about an unexpectedly large number of certifiers participating in the National Organic Program.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . [SIDEBAR DELETED] . . . .
CFS has expressed concern about the increase in the number of certifiers from 49 to 120 since 2000. The organization has raised questions about whether the additional certifiers really are needed or have been added just to deal with certain products and are, in effect, "sham" certifiers. "Our suspicions are that there are certifiers popping up just to certify a couple (of) products, to standards that aren't as stringent as the program is written," said Joe Mendelson, legal director for CFS. "Nobody besides the USDA really knows what the accreditation process really is," he added. "The decision on who is to certify organic produce needs to be in full view of the public where it cannot be influenced by large corporate interests."

[CONTINUED AT LINK]
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Old 02-28-2009, 01:13 PM   #9
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Quote:
"The decision on who is to certify organic produce needs to be in full view of the public where it cannot be influenced by large corporate interests."
Agreed. Update on this situation? Looks suspect to me.
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Old 02-28-2009, 09:00 PM   #10
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I'd like to know who certifies organic produce.

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Some of those fertilizers I see stamped as being organic aren't all that organic to me.
I don't think organic = chemical free.
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