Accountable vs. Organic

For the past three years I have been fortunate enough to be a shareholder in a Community Supported Agriculture plan here in Providence, Rhode Island. We renew our membership annually around this time of year when our farmer sends out an email offering the prices for the year and what we can expect. This year, he added this blurb about organics and I thought it would be a really nice place to start a discussion about what the term "organic" means and why we should buy local/ accountable first and organic second.

" is not certified organic for several reasons. Since the USDA has begun regulating organic standards, it is many people's opinion that the bar has been lowered rather than raised in terms of environmental standards, quality, sustainability, and public health. Therefore, follows standards which were in place when first began working for organically-certified growers. The growing practices of are considered to be in-line with organic standards (i.e, soil health, soil building, limited-use of botanical pesticides, non-pesticide pest and weed management, water conservation, erosion prevention, etc). We are, in accordance with our lease through South Side Community Land Trust, held to these practices."

As certified organic meat & produce become more industrialized and therefore part of a system one cannot actually see or monitor, it becomes less and less accountable.  In order to be certified organic, a farm may not use genetically modified seed; it may not use synthetic pesticides or herbicides, though it may still use natural ones; it may not irradiate food, etc. But certified organic food isn't regulated to do any better than what it's required to do.  It certainly can be a minimum-wage mentality project: do what is required by law and nothing more. So when faced with the option of "conventional" foods vs. organics, organics is your best bet. But better exists outside the industrial system.

What many small, independent farms prefer to practice are more in line of permaculture, integrated pest management, water conservation, soil health, manual labor and provide an overall tending to the farm as opposed to simply growing product.

<div style="width:425px" id="__ss_4750176"><strong style="display:block;margin:12px 0 4px"><a href="http://www.slideshare.net/research401/soil-test-4750176" title="Soil test">Soil test</a></strong><object id="__sse4750176" width="425" height="355"><param name="movie" value="http://static.slidesharecdn.com/swf/ssplayer2.swf?doc=soiltest-100713230..." /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"/><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always"/><embed name="__sse4750176" src="http://static.slidesharecdn.com/swf/ssplayer2.swf?doc=soiltest-100713230..." type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="355"></embed></object><div style="padding:5px 0 12px">View more <a href="http://www.slideshare.net/">presentations</a> from <a href="http://www.slideshare.net/research401">Southside Community Land Trust</a>.</div></div>

The Southside Community Land Trust has provide the means for Providence growers' voices for the last 30 years. As the Providence Metropolitan area is the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, recovering soil health for our farms has been the main priority of our community.  If you have a community resource like this in your area, please consider supporting it. The benefits they provide by networking new gardeners and farmers with traditional farming methods (not to be confused with "conventional") is worth more than its weight in gold.

Photo credit: Keri Marion