Conventional farms apply chemical fertilizers such as nitrogen to promote plant growth, where as organic/sustainable local farms apply natural fertilizers (manure and/or compost).
Conventional farms spray insecticides to deter pests and disease where as organic/sustainable local farms use insects and birds or traps to help prevent disease and reduce the amount of pests.
Conventional farms use chemical herbicides to manage their weeds, where as organic/sustainable local farms rotate their crops, till, hand weed or mulch.
Conventional farms give animals antibiotics, growth hormones and medication to prevent disease and stimulate growth, where as organic/sustainable local farms provide organic feeds and allow the animals access to the out doors. They use rotational grazing, a balanced diet to minimize disease. ie. Organic beef does not mean grass-fed beef.
When it comes to buying organic, I personally opt for local farm fresh foods first. They may not be certified organic, but usually practice sustainable farming methods. Here are some of the questions I typically ask the farmers.
Were your crops sprayed with any type of pesticides, herbicides or insecticides? What type of fertilizer do you use? Are your cows grass-fed? Are your chickens free range? Were antibiotics or growth hormones injected? (I do not eat any animal products, but my husband does, so we always buy local-grass-fed-free range antibiotic free animals.)
When it comes to buying products in the grocery store, I always look for the USDA symbol. Just remember because it has “organic” written somewhere on the product doesn’t mean it is 100% organic.
- “100% organic” means just that, 100% organic.
- “Organic” means 95% or more of the ingredients are organic.
- “Made with organic ingredients” means 70% or more of the ingredients are in fact organic and they may list up to 3 ingredients in the packaging description.
- Products with less than 70% organic ingredients are not allowed to use the word organic on their products except in the ingredient list.
Both 100% organic and organic may display the USDA organic symbol on their products.
You see consuming organic foods allows us to keep pesticides, herbicides or insecticides out of our bodies. To me, that is a good enough reason to eat organic. I would much rather buy corn from my local farmer that may have an inch worm crawling in it than bitting into corn that was sprayed with toxic chemicals.
Every time you purchase a product labelled organic, or buy from the local famers market you are voting for that product. The more we buy organic and local, the more companies and grocery stores will be forced to provide us with these foods. I for one, am always voting with my wallet and I choose organic and sustainable farming. What do you choose?
Sources: USDA/FDA Organic and Pick Your own