It's official! Heritage Prairie Farm is 100% USDA Certified Organic! Last week we received our official letter from our certifier EcoCert ICO and can finally call ourselves organic. We are over the moon with happiness. Here at Heritage Prairie Farm we have always grown using organic growing practices, but legally we weren't allowed to advertise our farm or products as "organic" without the stamp of approval. If you've ever noticed our MicroGreens at Whole Foods, the display signs have always said "conventional," even though they have always been grown using organic practices. Now we are finally organic on all levels!
There's always been some confusion about this topic, but what does it mean to be ORGANIC? Like actually? I'm going to shine some light on that topic in this week's blog post.
Taken off usda.gov, here are the organic standards as follows:
What is Organic Agriculture?
Organic agriculture produces products using methods that preserve the environment and avoid most synthetic materials, such as pesticides and antibiotics. USDA organic standards describe how farmers grow crops and raise livestock and which materials they may use.
Organic farmers, ranchers, and food processors follow a defined set of standards to produce organic food and fiber. Congress described general organic principles in the Organic Foods Production Act, and the USDA defines specific organic standards. These standards cover the product from farm to table, including soil and water quality, pest control, livestock practices, and rules for food additives.
Organic farms and processors:
- Preserve natural resources and biodiversity
- Support animal health and welfare
- Provide access to the outdoors so that animals can exercise their natural behaviors
- Only use approved materials
- Do not use genetically modified ingredients
- Receive annual onsite inspections
- Separate organic food from non-organic food
The organic standards describe the specific requirements that must be verified by a USDA-accredited certifying agent before products can be labeled USDA organic. Overall, organic operations must demonstrate that they are protecting natural resources, conserving biodiversity, and using only approved substances. A brief summary is provided below. View regulations.
The USDA organic seal verifies that irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, and genetically modified organisms were not used.
Contemporary American organic farming has its roots in the humus farming movements that spread across Great Britain and continental Europe from the 1920s through the 1950s. These movements evolved largely in response to the increasing use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. The proponents of humus farming believed that the highest quality food and the sustainability of agriculture were achieved by “feeding the soil,” thereby building soil fertility. Their goal was to increase the humus—the fully decomposed organic matter that has reached a stable state in the soil. Humus farming was typified by mixed farms that included livestock, food crops, feed crops, and green manures. Humus farming made little or no use of soluble commercial fertilizers or pesticides, in part because the health of the soil rendered them unnecessary.
The 1960s and 1970s brought more visibility to organic farming in the United States, as public concern over pesticide use increased. In the minds of consumers, the non-use of pesticides was an important part of organic agriculture. The growth of the organic industry during this era led to the establishment of standards and third-party certification. Third-party certification is an assessment process carried out to verify compliance with standards. It involves the producer (farmer), the consumer (buyer), and a third party—the certifying agent who affirms that the product is produced in accordance with the organic regulations.
As the organic industry expanded during the 1980s, different certifiers developed their own standards and certification processes. As a result, some certifiers did not accept the validity of organic certification by other certifiers. These disparities among certifier standards resulted in barriers to trade, which led many to believe that a consistent set of standards was needed: a single set of U.S. standards for organic production, labeling, and marketing. Eventually, Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990. This act mandated creation of the National Organic Program (NOP), which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).
Although it was a long process with hoops to jump through, endless paperwork, and correspondence we've finally made it here after nearly seven years of farming. Whew!
And the best part is that we couldn't have done this without YOU, yes, you-our farm fans and customers, by choosing to buy our produce and support a local farm, you are choosing to support organic. We are the first farm in Kane County Illinois to become Certified USDA Organic. That's pretty awesome in our book.