We get asked almost every market if our product is organic. Generally, my response is, “what does organic mean to you?” Everyone has a different take. In the end it boils down to what we want, clean, nutrient dense, great tasting food. I’ll throw in local now too. Each of those has their own answer. This week I thought I would look at “clean”. When I ask what “clean” means it usually means NO pesticides or herbicides. Hmm. By rule organic allows for both pesticides and herbicides. Practically impossible (and certainly here in Georgia) for a farmer to grow without both. The organic rule directly from the USDA site is as follows:
Produce can be called organic if it’s certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest. Prohibited substances include most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. In instances when a grower has to use a synthetic substance to achieve a specific purpose, the substance must first be approved according to criteria that examine its effects on human health and the environment (see other considerations in “Organic 101: Allowed and Prohibited Substances”).
For starters, Sweetwater Urban Farms does not grow in soil so we cannot claim to be organic. Actually, by taking soil out of the equation we have practically eliminated the possibility of salmonella which is most frequently passed to the food source through the soil and or the compost or manure used in organic growing methods. We use aeroponic Tower Gardens, thus, no soil.
Second, we do not use herbicides because we don’t grow in the soil and don’t have weeds. Two issues we have removed from the list.
Third, we use the same pesticides and fungicides that other certified organic farmers use. And use them they do, don’t think they don’t. You can find the full code here. We use a search tool that you find here (try Milstop as an example). And of course, we do our research within our networks to find the right products. All of the substances require that you start by following code 205.206(e); crop pest, weed, and disease management practice standard, which basically says, try all these other things like crop rotation, sanitation, predator insects, and weed flaming. We don’t do any of the weed flaming, but I do release lady bugs and assassin bugs (yes, that’s a thing) into the greenhouse. But Georgia deals with high humidity and tremendous pest pressure so augmenting that work with certified products is a must.
When you buy from us, rest assured that your product would meet every organic standard and as far as we are concerned, we are “better than organic”! If you have more questions on our growing methodologies, please let me know.
See ya at the market!