Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The subtleties of language

You may have noticed that I’ve changed some of my verbiage in the title of this blog. The deeper I get into this whole project, the more I realize that my use of the word “organic” needs clarification. As a fellow San Diegan told me the other day, “Even s**t is organic.”

“Certified Organic” and “Organic” are often two different things. “Certified Organic” is a term thought up by the National Organic Program (which is in turn regulated by the USDA) and involves a long, complicated, very expensive certification process with continued regulation. Even within that certification, there are different levels of organic (100% Organic, Transitional, Made with Organic Ingredients, and more). In California we have an even stricter standard set by the California Certified Organic Farmers Organization. The Gran and Gramps small-scale farms that practice organic standards may not have the means (or the incentive) to become certified. As long as they grow their produce without conventional pesticides, artificial fertilizers, other nasty things such as human waste, sewage sludge, radiation, food additives, and genetic modification, etc., they are producing organic food. Their poultry should be free range, and their meat pasture-finished.

I will be relying on “Certified Organic” food quite a bit initially, because it’s a good place to start. But it’s not an end-all solution. Time and time again, government agencies have shown themselves to be inefficient, and, due to budget constraints depending on the administration, able to accomplish only the very minimum of what is necessary. My hope is that the increasing regulation of organic farming does not limit the diversity of what is available to us in the way regulation of conventional agriculture has pushed out many heirloom species (in the case of corn and soybeans, in particular).

A very useful website, Sustainabletable.org, has provided a list questions I can ask the grower or store manager (http://www.sustainabletable.org/shop/questions/questions_storemanager.pdf)
to see if their product qualifies under my broader definition of organic. I’m going to try some of these out at the Farmer’s Market. Check back to see how it went!


Anonymous said...

I am enjoying following your journey. I love the way you keep the education process light and amusing. LJO

Brad said...

Go, Melanie! Having just returned from horrible Las Vegas where there wasn't a single environmentally-friendly effort to be found, I am delighted to find you committing yourself to something so admirable! I look forward to following your journey.

Mom said...

I found another farm market. This one did have some things besides apples, but none of them were locally grown. The owner told me that they start out the season with items they buy from a distributor nearby until they can get local produce. At least there were vine-ripened tomatoes rather than plastic ones! I guess I'll have to wait a while for anything to be in season in Pennsylvania. Sure would be nice to be in San Diego where some food is ripe NOW!

Mom said...

Check out this site for some pretty but edible plants you might be able to grow outside your apartment: