Organic Fruit and Vegetables
All food was organic before man-made pesticides and herbicides where created.
In a perfect world, soil would contain all the nutrients necessary to grow crops and crops would not be invaded by weeds and insects. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Organic farming involves trying to work in harmony with nature by adjusting to site-specific conditions and integrating cultural, biological and mechanical practices that foster the cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity. Organic farming systems rely on crop rotation, animal and plant manures as fertilizers, hand weeding and biological pest control.
The USDA defines organic as “grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest. Prohibited substances include most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.”
Conventional, commercial or industrial farming
deals with soil conditions, weeds and bugs by reling on synthetic/chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and Geneticlly Modified Organisms (GMO’s) to increase crop yields and to protect crops.
How healthy, green and humane organic as opposed to commercial farming is, of course, subject to debate, but then again a lot of money is at stake and so is our health.
To legally use the word “organic” growers must be approved by the federal government. The National Organic Standards developed by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) regulates products marketed in the United States. To obtain organic certification, growers must conform to strict standards and be certified by a private or state agency authorized by the USDA. Some states also require registration.
It can be expensive and time consuming to get certified and therefore not financially viable for all, especially smaller farms. It does not matter if you follow or exceed the minimum standards for organic farming, without the organic certification, products cannot be marketed as organic. This is why, although purchasing local is highly recommended, you do not see the certified organic label on the majority of local farmers products.
Local vs Certified Organic Fruit and Vegetables
You may have noticed that organic does not include the word local. The distance your food travels from farm to table does not matter with being certified organic. Nor is Certified Organic an indication of freshness or quality. Certified Organic only means the farmers meet the USDA requirements to be certified.
Eating local continues to gain momentum and popularity, especially at:
- restaurants (where farm to table are current buzz words)
- local farmer’s markets
- locally sourced markets
- departments or sections of a large or chain grocery
There are plenty of farmers that farm organically, but for very good reasons, such as time and money, decide not to become USDA organic certified.
When shopping locally, it is best to get has much first hand knowledge and recommendations from reliable sources to know what are the farmers standards and practices. Feel free talk to the farmer about their practices, farming philosophy and if possible take a visit to the farm visit. Local farmers tend to want to know their customers as much as customers want to know them. They take pride in what they produce and want to share information with you. Buying from a farmer you know, CSA, Co-op or local markets is a good idea and helps the local economy. Plus wouldn’t you rather be able to talk to your farmer than visit a big food producer’s website.
How big is the fruit and vegetable industry in the USA
The USDA reported that for 2011 overall crop production was $143 Billion. It is estimated that organic food sales in 2012 was about $28 Billion but is expected to continue to grow in the next few years.
Overall the USA exports more food that it produces. According to the Farm Bureaus Federation of America one in three farms are planted for export. The top 100 food producers can be found here.
Should I Eat Organic
Eat clean recommends that you should whenever you can. Eat clean meals should include food that is minimally processed without the use of synthetic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic engineering (GMO’s), irradiation, artificial ingredients or preservatives.
Unfortunately not everyone can afford or has access to 100% organic. This is why being an educated consumer and making informed choices matters.
As we said, get to know your local farmers, join a CSA or Co-op. Pay attention to prices and take advantage of when the difference is negligible or cheaper to buy organic.
Choosing Organic Fruit and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetable resist contamination better than others. When purchasing, try to eliminate or greatly reduce this fruits and vegetables that are the most contaminated by commercial farming.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit organization founded in 1993 provides information to protect public health and the environment. EWG produces a Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce and identifies the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen”. They also have a phone “app”.
EWG recommends that you should eat organic fruits and vegetables if they are on the “Dirty Dozen” list. Commercially produced (non-organic) fruits and vegetables are acceptable if they are on the “Clean Fifteen” list.
You owe it to yourself to look at EWG’s information and to review all items they rank.
Here are EWG’s current recommendations:
When conventionally grown these contain the lowest amount of residual pesticides and chemicals
BUY BEST PRICE
Dirty Dozen Plus™
when conventionally grown these contain the highest amount of residual pesticides and chemicals