Monday, September 3, 2012

Natural verses Organic Farming

There is a lot of confusion in the market place regarding the differences in 'Natural' verses 'Organic' farm goods.  Although sometimes the words are used interchangeably, they can be quite different things.  In the US, products marketed as 'Organic' must meet certain guildlines and come from Organic Certified sources.  'Natural' products are not always from certified sources.  So what's the difference? 

In 1990, the Organic Food Production Act was passed by Congress to "establish uniform national standards for the production and handling of foods labeled as “organic.” The Act authorized a new USDA National Organic Program (NOP) to set national standards for the production, handling, and processing of organically grown agricultural products. In addition, the Program oversees mandatory certification of organic production. The Act also established the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) which advises the Secretary of Agriculture in setting the standards upon which the NOP is based. Producers who meet standards set by the NOP may label their products as “USDA Certified Organic.”

Later in 1995, specific definitions were further outlined to help clarify to the consumer what the 'Organic' label means.  Also at this time, the beginnings of regulations and enforcement came down, providing specific structure for farms and dairies to be certified organic.  These guidelines were finalized in 2000 and the law enacted in 2001.  It can take as much as three years to get certified.  Once completed, the farm or area within the farm is periodically recertified.  If for whatever reason the certification is lost, the farm cannot be re-certified until it once again reaches the required standards and passes thorough inspection.  For example: in Washington state, the use of an unapproved substance may result in a loss of organic certification for 36 months.

Here at My Happy Acres, although we are not currently certified Organic, we believe in and practice sustainable agricultural methods.  We have clean ground water and like many small farmers, do everything we can to maintain its integrity.  Living close to the land is not a fad or catch phase, but is our way of life.

If you are interested in Organic production and are willing to dive into 'the deep end of the pool', Cornell University has some guides that you may be interested in.  These are free to download and have lots of good information outlining the general practices recommended by them.

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