Organic Markets Shelton WA
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Open Year Round : No
WIC Accepted : No
SFMNP Accepted : No
SNAP Accepted : No
May-September Saturday, 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
From farm to home, many critical factors weigh on that increasingly important term.
By Linda Melone
The term “organic” conjures up visions of pastoral farms and sun-kissed fruits and vegetables grown by caring farmers. For many, this ideal makes it easier to drive an hour to the nearest health-conscious market. But how much of that vision is fiction versus reality? Is natural beef as good as organic? What’s behind the USDA Organic label? These questions are becoming more relevant as a growing number of people make organic products their mainstay.
Behind the Organic Label
The sales growth of organic foods tops that of all other food and beverage sales. US sales of organic food and beverages comprised roughly 2.8% of all food sales in 2006 at $17.7 billion, according to the Organic Trade Association, up 21% from 2005. Organic non-food sales, such as textiles, personal care products, toys and pet foods, grew 26% in 2006. More availability of organic products and greater consumer awareness has driven these increases.
Within the past 30 years organic has grown from a small-farm movement to a major industry in which organic foods and products can be found on the shelves of major retailers. “Organic is becoming much more sophisticated,” says Carl Winter, PhD, on the faculty at the University of California Davis’ Foodsafe Program. “But this greater demand also means that organic food is not necessarily local anymore.”
Producing a product good enough to earn the USDA Organic label isn’t easy. Farmers and growers must meet strict government standards. In 1990 Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), which required the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop national standards for organically produced products. The OFPA and the National Organic Program regulations require farms or handling operations to be certified by a state or private entity accredited by the USDA.
“Organic products cost more money to produce and yields are not as high,” says Winter. “Organic farms must be open to yearly inspections. It’s difficult because you can have all the right ideas and use state-of-the-art organic practices, but if you cannot stay economically viable, you’re not going to manage.”
Government regulations determine ways in which agricultural products are grown and processed. Organic production requires a system of farming that excludes toxic pesticides and fertilizers to maintain and replenish the soil. Genetic engineering, cloning, irradiation and sewage sludge are prohibited.
“Generally, a farmer has to shun traditional technology,” says Mark A. Kastel, co-director and senior farm policy analyst for the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute ( www.cornucopia. org ), an independent watchdog organization that monitors and promotes ecologically produced local and organic food. Produce must be grown on ground that has been free of pesticides and chemical fertilizers for at least thr...