Organic Foods

I have sold produce for almost 20 years, part of the time I bought and resold it and part of the time I have grown and sold my own. Before I sold produce I was gardening for many years, did a lot of reading and learning and a lot of talking to people who grew and sold like I did. Organic gardening isn't a new thing. I remember reading about it in Rodale's "Organic Gardening and Farming" magazines back in the early seventies. I read about Ruth Stout's no-till gardening methods a long time ago and practice that in my own garden now.

Most of the people who did "real" organic gardening back then were usually considered to be hippy types or also called the "warm fuzzies" now, but something happened in the mid seventies and has been happening ever since. Lots of growers have found that, if they apply the label "Organic" to anything they sell, some people will pay a lot more for it. Does that mean the people who use this label necessarily care about your health? No, in most of the cases I have run into personally, and I have worked with dozens of farmers and growers over the years, it only means they care about their wallets. They do not usually live a healthy lifestyle for themselves or care if you do, they just want your money. Even a "warm fuzzy earth loving hippy" can get greedy.

In the 2008 Kentucky Farmers' Market Manual, under the section, "Kentucky's Organic Program," it answers the question, "Why organic?" with the following:

"Organic farming is an environmentally responsible approach to producing high-quality food and fiber. Personal health and environment concerns have long been motivating factors for those who choose to farm organically. Increasingly, however, economics has become a major factor. Organic farmers typically earn a premium for their production."

Even they admit, albeit in their own words, that it is mostly done for money nowadays.

One of the first things I learned when buying produce is that you couldn't trust just anyone. If you found someone who was honest, you stuck with them and were sure to check the bottom of the baskets of produce you bought from someone you weren't familiar with. If you didn't, you were liable to get fresh stuff put over the top of rotten stuff. You have to know about produce to protect yourself and the same goes for you, the consumer, because you can get ripped off easily if you believe everything you are told without question. Be informed. Know what is going into your body.

At on the faqs page, an important question was asked and answered:

"1 - Is organic food better for you?
There is no conclusive evidence at this time to suggest that organically produced foods are more nutritious. However, well-balanced soils grow strong healthy plants which, many believe taste better and contain more nutrients. Many restaurants' chefs around the state, as well as around the country are using organic produce because they think it tastes better. Organic growers often select varieties to grow for their flavor, not only their appearance."

Any grower with a brain would select varieties with good flavor, they don't have to be organic to know that is important to the consumer. They also know that good soil will produce good vegetables and fruits. Basically, what you want to find is someone who knows what they are doing which may or may not be organic.

Organic fertilizer

Sure, there are still the good old hippy types and even some other types of organic gardeners who really do believe it is healthier and try to live their own lives in that fashion. but most people who sell products of any kind know there are a lot of uninformed people who don't take the time to really learn about what they are eating, they go by the labels they see and the amazing claims on them. Many of these people use consumer ignorance against them.

Another question answered on the faqs page at kyagr was:

"2 - How is "Certified Organic" food different from other organic food?
"Certified" means that the food has been grown according to strict uniform standards which are verified by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. "Certified Organic" means crops have been grown from soil that was not treated with pesticides, growth regulators, synthetic chemicals or artificial fertilizers in the 36 months prior to certification. Certification includes yearly inspections of farm fields and processing facilities, and detailed record keeping to ensure that growers, processors, and handlers are meeting the National Organic Program Standards."

Some people meet those requirements or they wouldn't get certified but, when you think about all the things in the air we breathe and in the water, it is hard to consider that any place is really "organic" unless it is contained and filtered.

PLUS, 85% of what is labeled "Organic" and sold in America was not grown here but was imported from other countries that may or may not meet certain standards. And of the ones certified here, only 5% of them are checked, not everyone is checked like most people think. So, 95% of certified organic growers are not inspected.

Here's a good example: can there really be such a thing as Organic Honey, for instance, when you cannot guarantee that the bees visited ONLY organic flowers? I have never heard of or read about people following each bee on its rounds. That would be impossible as they can travel up to 14 kilometers away from the hive, there are thousands of them and you just can't train the little boogers to only go where you tell them!

The main reason I am writing this is to inform people that organic may or may not be what they think it is. None of us at the market call our produce organic for a reason. We don't believe in ripping people off with an idea that we don't believe is possible in today's world. We use various methods of gardening, most of it is natural. I grow my produce in compost. Most of us use GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) as much as we can.

The best thing about our produce is that it is fresh because it is local and since it doesn't have to travel a long distance, we don't have to use chemicals to preserve its freshness, it is naturally fresh.

One more thing to think about, if they don't use pesticides or other chemicals to grow "organically," then why do they charge 3-4 times what regular farmers do who do use chemicals? Where is the extra expense incurred that makes them charge more? It must be the paperwork and the certification fee - $125 - which is minimal to a succesful grower.

It is also interesting that the Department of Agriculture has proposed 38 ingredients that could be put in "USDA organic" labeled foods even though they are not grown organically. Various reasonings were given by the people who were petitioning for their inclusion but the one I like the best was the one about fish oils. Ocean Nutrition Canada stated that, "There are no organic standards for organic fish or fish derivatives, so there is no way to certify a fish or fish product as organic." However, the Organic Consumers Association is trying to have a lot of them removed from this list and the reason they gave for this specific item was, "The group alleges that fish oil has not undergone the same review process as other ingredients, and therefore should not be considered until it has undergone the proper process."

Another example was hops. Anheuser-Beush is one of two people petitioning for using non organic hops on the grounds that, "it is difficult to attain adequate distance between organic hops from conventional hop crops." The Organic Consumers Association objects because, "it is misleading to label products like beer organic if a main ingredient is not organic and the inclusion of hops puts small brewers that use organic hops at a disadvantage because they have to compete with large national brewers using cheaper non-organic hops."

If these items are allowed to be included as USDA organic foods then that would be misleading. Which is pretty much what I have been saying. They don't really care about integrity, only making a buck.

You probably won't see the label "Organic" much at our market. We don't use it to pump the price up, we ask a decent price for naturally fresh produce and we think that is the best thing to do. We're in this as a business, that's true, but not to rip you off. And you can take that to the bank. Pat Switzer

Here is a letter I recently wrote to the OTA (Organic Trade Association):

Dear Lori, I am 54 years old and started gardening back in the late '60s, reading Rodale's Organic Gardening and Farming Magazine and trying to be a "good grower." I am well versed in what the term "Organic" means and also what it implies now. I have grown and sold produce for many years. I have bought produce from hundreds of farmer's for resale and it has been my experience that, the original organic growers that really believed in the idea of growing healthy food are few and far between. It has been my experience that most people that put the label "Organic" on their products, couldn't care less if you eat healthy as long as you were willing to pay more for food that may or may not be what you believe it to be.

I would venture to say that 80% of the people who I have seen use this label ,do not believe in the healthy concept of food and do not practice it themselves. Go visit them, follow them around and see if they eat healthy foods. I have yet to see one "organic" farmer who does. They go out for fast food burgers and come back and start slapping those organic labels on their produce. I have lived in MI, TN and KY and find it the same everywhere I lived and everywhere I have visited as well.

I am getting really tired of people being ripped off because they are gullible enough to believe that, just because a product SAYS it is good for you, it is. Most people do not educate themselves about food and the industry knows that and takes advantage of it. I grow produce as naturally as I can. But I do not promote my food as organic because it is my own belief that, with so much pollution EVERYWHERE, nothing can be totally organic unless it is grown under confined conditions. Like "Organic Honey" for instance, try to get me to believe those bees only go to organic blossoms. Well, maybe in Hawaii. So I will never call my produce organic because I believe in telling people the truth about what they buy.

I read some notes in a Farmers' Market magazine lately and saw where USDA was letting some foods be labeled "Natural" and this was "muddying the waters" and making things confusing. Exactly. Without truth in advertising people will buy whatever sounds good to them. And that doesn't make it so. The regulations for labeling are so undefined in many cases as to make them nonexistent. No one seems to be interested in cleaning this up and telling people the truth about what they eat and how it can NOT be what they think it is.

The point in writing to you was just to let you know that there are some of us out here who do not believe everything we hear. Some of us actually have a brain and use it. And just because something SAYS it is good doesn't make it so. And we are trying to educate people to be more informed about what they eat but unlike you and others like you, we are telling them the truth. Yes, I do believe you, and others pushing organics, are not quite telling them the whole truth. We are using word of mouth and our website to impress upon them the need to look further than the labels.

Pat Switzer
KY Farmers' Market Coordinator

They never answered me. It didn't surprise me.

I recently found this in an article: "Exemptions from certification are laid out in the NOP regulation § 205.101 as follows: (1) A production or handling operation that sells agricultural products as ‘organic’ but whose gross agricultural income from organic sales totals $5,000 or less annually is exempt from certification under Subpart E of this part and from submitting an organic system plan for acceptance or approval under § 205.101 but must comply with the applicable organic production and handling requirements of the Subpart C of this part and the labeling requirements of § 205.310. The products from such operations shall not be used as ingredients identified as organic in processed products produced by another handling operation." In short, as long as you don't sell more than $5,000 ANYONE can call what they sell "Organic." How reliable is that?

I recently was contacted by someone with a website that is excellent. He also knows what a farce the word "organic" is. Check it out here


Better produce because it is fresh. Fresher because it is local.
Barren County Regional Farmers' Market -
specializing in Kentucky Grown Produce!

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