What does “organic” mean?

Crops must be:

  • Grown in safe soil
  • have no modifications
  • must remain separate from conventional (non-organic) products

Farmers are NOT  allowed to use:

  • synthetic pesticides
  • bioengineered genes (GMOs)
  • petroleum or sewage sludge-based fertilizers

Why buy organic?

Organic farming is better for the environment. Organic farming practices reduce pollution (air, water, soil), conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility, and use less energy.

When it comes to food, organic is a delicious way to eat well and support the environment. The key principle behind organic food is healthy soil. By acting as responsible stewards of their land, organic farmers create a cycle of healthy soil, growing healthy food for healthier people.

And it’s clear from the tremendous growth of organic food—$1 billion in sales in 1990 to $29 billion in sales in 2012—that more and more people appreciate its value.

Organic foods meet all government safety standards that other foods must meet, plus the specific requirements outlined for organic certification. While foods that are grown organically may sometimes cost more, they also offer the kind of value you won’t find in conventionally grown foods.

  • They’re healthier.
    Organic foods are grown without the use of GMO seeds, synthetic pesticides, chemicals, and fertilizers.
  • They’re environmentally sound.
    Many conventional farming practices cost taxpayers billions of dollars in environmental damage and federal subsidies, while organic growers protect soil sustainability and water quality and contribute to biodiversity.
  • They’re better for farmers.
    Organic farming protects the health and welfare of farm workers by limiting exposure to harmful synthetic pesticides, chemicals, and fertilizers. And organic farming, particularly when sustainable practices are used, better preserves and fortifies the land for farmers of future generations.
  • They’re more humane.
    Animals on organic farms are typically treated more humanely. Livestock are given all organic feed, access to clean housing and to the outdoors.

How do you tell if the products you’re buying are organic?

If a food is labeled as “made with organic ingredients,” it contains at least 70 percent organic content, while the label “organic” means that 95% or more of the ingredients are organic.

In general, looking for the “USDA Organic” label is the best way to guarantee that the product has been grown without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), irradiation, antibiotics, or growth hormones. Organic growers avoid contamination during food processing, keep detailed records of their operations, and are likely to use sustainable growing methods.

Small local farmers often use organic methods, but sometimes cannot afford to become certified organic. If you have questions about any products we carry from local farms, please ask us!

For more information on food terminology, head over to our Food Glossary.

Fruits and vegetables where the organic label matters the most:

According to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that analyzes the results of government pesticide testing in the U.S., the following 12 fruits and vegetables, also known as the Dirty Dozen, have the highest pesticide levels on average. Because of their high pesticide levels when conventionally grown, it is best to buy these organic:

  1. Apples
  2. Strawberries
  3. Grapes
  4. Celery
  5. Peaches
  6. Spinach
  7. Sweet Bell Peppers
  8. Imported Nectarines
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Cherry Tomatoes
  11. Imported Snap Peas
  12. Potatoes

Non-organic fruits and vegetables with low pesticide levels:

These conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, also known as the Clean 15, were found to have the lowest levels of pesticides. Most of these have thicker skin or peel, which naturally protects them better from pests.

  1. Avocado
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Sweet Peas (Frozen)
  6. Onions
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Papayas
  10. Kiwi
  11. Eggplant
  12. Grapefruit
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Sweet Potatoes

What are the benefits of organic wine?

Organic grapes are not sprayed with chemicals and are produced by sustainable farming methods. In addition to producing a healthier wine, this also creates brighter flavors in the wine.

Organic wines contain less sulfites then traditional wines. Sulfites are salts or sulfurous acids that occur naturally in most wines (it is very rare to find a wine that does not have any sulfites). Traditional wines contain added sulfites to help in their preservation, whereas organic winemakers do not add sulfites. The less sulfites a wine contains, the healthier it will be for your body.