What does Organic mean to me?

Seedlings of Romaine Lettuce

For many years, I used the word organic when speaking about my art. It meant to work organically, using something organic, to create a free-form or organic flow or movement in a medium, to bring forth an organic feeling. To me it meant creating something alive, free-flowing and from within, as opposed to hard edge, strategic, bold and geometric, not something industrial or man-made. Webster defines the word as “pertaining to or derived from living organisms”. Since the beginning of an awareness of our environment, the word organic has taken on a new and added emphasis as applied to farming and agriculture. In this sense, it means to make use of nature’s gifts and habits by learning them, understanding them and nurturing them to use without adding anything synthetic, chemical or artificial.

The term Organic, pertaining to agriculture; to me stirs up words like “good for you, pure, value, quality,  healthy, wholesome, nutrient-dense”, grass-roots, the way Mother Nature intended it to be.  It seems that the real meaning of the word “organic” has been marred or stretched somewhat.

This question is harder to answer than it should be.

You can find frozen and canned organic foods, organic ice cream, cookies, cakes and even organic beer. You can buy organic foods at farmers markets, grocery stores, there are even online organic shopping websites. Organic food is much more accessible in today’s marketplace.  My concern about this is that although the food is organic, sweets are still sweets, and although from organic sources, they do have the same effects by the fact that they will still contain fat, sugars and calories, so organic does not always mean healthy.

Each governing agency all over the world, determines the definition of “organic” for itself. In many places, one cannot legally use the term “organic” unless certification from the governing agency has been received.  Requirements usually involve rules for organic production and standards for growing, handling, processing, storing, packaging and delivery to the consumer.  First of all, the seeds must be from organic sources. Any seed that has been certified will proudly display “Organic” in it’s advertising.  The farm can not have been treated with a pesticide or a herbicide anywhere on the property. This includes the vegetable garden, flower beds and any other plants the produce has access to.

What about fertilizer?  Manure can and often does contain a small bit of whatever the animal ate. Is there a chance that the cow received growth enhancement? What about the cow’s diet? Was it organic?  Most people believe that if they use sheep manure from the local nursery and put it in the ground, add tomato plants and let them grow that we could consider their fruits be organic, but realistically is it?  Organic composting and green manure are just two methods that are rapidly being implemented.

Sweet Potatoes

You see, this can all get very involved very quickly.

The ground on which a crop grows must be free from any non-organic chemical usage for 3-4 consecutive years before it can even be considered for organic certification.  Many toxic chemicals stay in the soil for years, and continue seeping into plants.  In Ontario there are several certification bodies that certify organic farms and food processing operations. Growers or processors wanting to be certified must contact one of the proper certification bodies and get a copy of the certification standards before they start the transition to organic production. For farms this may be 3-4 years before the production and sale of the certified organic products.  Any organic input used in production must be thoroughly documented.  An annual inspection is performed by a certification agent.

There must be separate handling facilities for organic and non-organic products or a very strict cleaning process must be adhered to between processing organic and non-organic products. This is determined by the type of product being produced.

So as you can see, in our part of the world there are a lot of hoops you must jump through to receive an organic certification.  It would be awfully hard for a back yard farmer to meet all the necessary requirements.

About a decade ago, organic food was limited to fruits and vegetables only. Today it’s possible to enjoy a completely organic diet without missing your favourite foods.  Restaurants with healthy food menus often include organic meats, dairy, fruit, vegetables and grains. Organic pasta and cereals are quite common. Meats and dairy products, including milk and eggs, are produced organically as well.

The Belgium's at work

Rest assured that our Farm being certified since 2000 is continually being fortified naturally with crop rotation, and the production of green manure.  Soil tests are a continually being done to maintain the proper growing practices and conditions.  Crops under attack are fed with predators to keep the bug population down, or nematodes to control grubs.  Barnyard chickens help to keep down the potato bugs, but can be harmful to other tender plants they so love to eat as well.  Our farmer has rigid standards and a passion for growing organic.  The family explores many natural ways to control the ever-present slugs and other nasty things that we need so much and rely on to enrich the soil, but keep from enjoying the vegetables before we do.

So what is organic mean to me? So many things!  But when it all comes down to it, I am taken to quote my very good friend who said to me, ” Ummm, I’m not smart with organic, but I know it tastes better and I feel safer eating it and the fact that I can visit where it comes from is great!”  And that is all that really matters now doesn’t it?

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2 Responses to What does Organic mean to me?

  1. Pingback: What Does Organic What Does All The Food Mean For A New Year Dinner « Recipes for Health

  2. Pingback: What Does Organic What Does Food Mean To Me « Recipes for Health

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