What Is Organic Farming?

Before the Industrial Era, the common practices for farming were largely much more organic in nature. The Industrial Era that began at the end of the 19th Century expanded into agriculture, and continued past the 1920s, which saw the  introduction of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. In 1939, Paul Muller developed DDT - the chlorinated hydrocarbons used in pesticides. Farmers embraced DDT, resulting in a marked move away from the previous agriculture methods that had dominated agricultural life for centuries. Lord Northbourne, an English agriculturist, coined the term “organic” in his book,“Look to the Land” published in 1939. He used the phrase “the farm as an organism,” referring to the holistic, ecologically-balanced approach to farming, as opposed to what he termed chemical farming. This began the first organic movement in England known as the Green Revolution.

The modern organic movement became popular with Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring” that was published in 1962 and brought to public attention the dangers of DDT. “Silent Spring” redirected public attention to the importance of organic farming,  ultimately resulting in the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 in the United States. This was the first official act of the National Organic Program (NOP) under the auspices of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA gave the NOP authority to enforce agricultural products sold, labeled, or represented as “organic” within the United States.

Farmers, ranchers and processors must adhere to regulations set by the NOP in order to maintain the organic status. The NOP’s goal is to “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 and separate organic food from non-organic food.” These requirements may be temporarily waived for situations like natural disasters.

The USDA Organic Seal is placed on products that contain ninety-five percent organic ingredients. Only certified organic producers and processors may claim their products organic. Organic products have not been genetically engineered, have not been exposed to ionizing radiation nor have been in contact with sewage sludge. They must also adhere to the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances and follow all of the USDA organic regulations.

A plant absorbs water, minerals and whatever chemicals are in the ground and distribute them throughout the structure whether toxic or not. While there is probably no such thing as totally organic food in our toxic environment, organic foods provide us with the best alternative with the least amount of toxins.

It is important to understand what the term organic means so that educated choices can be made when choosing the foods we eat and grow and how these foods affect us physically, mentally and emotionally.