2Bits: “Soiled Organics”
“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.”
Wendell Berry, “The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture”
“Soiled Organics”—Certified Organic may need a new label and symbol. Soil is no longer a required component of the much trusted certified “Organic” label. Keeping “soil” as an integral part of the certified organics process has been an ongoing controversy for at least 20 years.
Soil is no longer a required component of the organic label.
At the end of October in Jacksonville, FL, the National Organic Standards Board made an important decision. The USDA asked the board to base the organic standards on “inputs” or what goes into the soil to produce an organic product, instead of focusing on “soil health.”
The new standard includes the process of tilling and cultivating soil, however doesn’t require it. Hydroponic and aquaponic products can now be certified as organic.
Hydroponic and aquaponic growers have been selling certified organic products for quite a few years. Advocates of a soil-based organic standard were hoping for a decision that stopped these growers from doing so.
What is hydroponics?
Hydroponics is the practice of growing plants in soil-less trays. Typically, hydroponics involves vast greenhouses, with plants growing in trays of nutrient solution.
Aquaponics combines hydroponics and aquaculture. Nutrients from farmed fish or other aquatic organisms are release into the water that is the base for the nutrient solution provided to the plants.
Was this a market driven decision?
Will we ever really know what is the biggest driver of this historic decision to include hydroponic and aquaponic in the organic certification process?
The organics industry is worth over $50 billion in the U.S. Was it a market-driven reason? Or does this forecast the future of farming with an increasing interest in plant-based proteins and desire to utilize more re-claimed urban areas for food production.
Maybe the time is right for a distinction in the USDA Organic label—a way to differentiate soil and non-soil based production practices. Let food buyers determine what is important to them, not government practices that the consumers have minimal impact on and business practices that may or may not have their best interest in mind.
Now, more than ever “You are what you eat.”
- Farmers: As you plan your production practices, think about how you will explain them to your customers. Be transparent. Transparency fosters respect and trust. It helps you develop long-term relationships that are rewarding. Transparency can contribute to your economic stability and sustainability.
- Buyers: Truly, you are what you eat. Take time to care. Ask questions. Dig deep. Don’t always assume grocery stores have your best interest in mind. Develop much-needed relationships with farmers that really care about their craft. Understand that highly nutritious locally raised food isn’t always the cheapest. However, in the long run it pays big health dividends. And, we all know what is happening to the cost of healthcare…..