Organic food, sometimes also called sustainable agriculture, refers to food produced in ways following the agricultural practices of organically certified farmers. The practices they follow are all natural, so they aren’t subject to added chemicals or hormones. Organic standards vary greatly throughout the world, but organic agriculture involves practices that balance biodiversity, restore ecosystems, cycle nutrients, and maintain ecological balance. The result is a truly healthy food that does not have any artificial ingredients, pesticides, antibiotics, or synthetic processes used in the growing process. Below we’ll take a closer look at organic foods.
Many people are familiar with organic products such as honey, carrots, lettuce, and eggs. But organic farming encompasses much more than those types of foods. Today, organic farming supports a wide variety of products including clothing, fuel, building materials, cosmetics, fiber, livestock, nursery plants and many more. There are even organically certified candy bars and energy drinks. Even pet food companies are starting to recognize the importance of organic food in the overall health and well being of pets.
In addition to commercialized organic foods, there are many organic farms, ranches, and vineyards where consumers can purchase free-range or raw food items. When buying organically raised meats, be sure and read the label and check the amount of antibiotic used. Animals on organic farms are fed certified organic feeds, have plenty of room to move around, and are fed certified organic meat and grains. Animals are not given hormones, antibiotics, steroids, or other drugs. In fact, many vets say that organically raised meats and eggs can be just as healthy as conventional meats and eggs.
Because organic products are grown without the use of chemicals or synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, they’re usually more expensive than their non-organic equivalents. But, because organic produce is grown using methods that do not kill or damage the environment as much as conventional methods, the organic products are generally safer for consumers. For example, when it comes to artificial flavors and colors in non-organic products, organic means that they won’t contain any artificial colorings or added fragrances. The same goes for preservatives used in non-organic foods; organic products will often contain only natural preservatives such as vitamin E and other naturally occurring ingredients.
Organic farming is important from a soil health perspective because soils that are grown with organic standards are less likely to become depleted. In most cases, organic farmers rely on natural compost to help improve the soil. On an individual basis, soil that has been grown using organic standards will be free of prohibited substances, which includes fertilizers and pesticides. If you grow your own vegetables, fruits, or even herbs organically, it’s important to limit the use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides. On a larger scale, if you’re growing organically produced food, it’s best to refrain from applying pesticides or herbicides at all.
Organic foods are also grown in smaller quantities than traditionally grown foods. When the chemicals are applied to organic crops, they’re absorbed into the plant rather than being released into the soil. Because fewer of the chemicals are absorbed, the crop will have lower levels of those harmful substances than traditional crops would have. It’s important, though, that organic products still meet standard agricultural practices, including proper crop rotation and use of conservation tillage. By following those methods, you’ll be able to provide healthy, pesticide-free foods that are as fresh as, if not more so than, those grown with conventional methods.
Organic soil management is another key difference between organic and conventional farming. Organic farmers will devote more time and resources to protecting their crops from pests and disease by applying chemical free pesticides and herbicides. The chemicals used pose no threat to the crops themselves or to people who eat them, but can affect the soil in adverse ways. Organic crop plants will generally be planted in deeper soil with greater coverage and greater depth of the root system to maximize the nutrients in that soil.
One of the biggest benefits of Organic agriculture is an increase in crop yields without the use of synthetic substances. However, conventional methods still use chemical substances to speed growth, promote pollination, increase hardiness and to keep plants alive. Organic farmers not only focus on growing healthy crops, they work to make sure they are growing crops that are as good quality as possible. They grow in deeper, more fertile soils with greater coverage and deeper roots for maximum nutrient absorption and to ensure that chemicals are not overused.