Simply stated, organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones.
The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) defines organic as follows:
Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled “organic,” a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.
Year after year, our produce is voted “Best produce in town” by local newspapers. We specialize in organic and locally grown produce. Our selection is colorful, fresh and abundant.
Certified organic produce is purchased whenever possible (no pesticides, herbicides, irradiation, or GMO’s). If organic is not available, an attempt will be made to purchase pesticide free produce. Conventional produce will be purchased only when organic or pesticide- free is unavailable, or when organic options are simply too expensive. Preference is always given to local and regional growers.
At the Co-op, we only use the term “pesticide-free” to indicate produce that has never been sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides. Many times we use “pesticide-free” to label produce from local farms or gardens which follow organic practices but are too small to afford organic certification.
What Does ” Organically Grown” Really Mean?
There are national and state standards regulating what can be labeled “organic.” While some farmers adopt more stringent standards, when you see the words “certified organic” you can be sure that:
No synthetic or petrochemical-based insecticides, fungicides, herbicides or fertilizers have been used.
Detailed records showing all inputs, growing methods, & harvest procedures, have been kept and are annually inspected as part of the certification process – this includes financial records.
The land on which the produce was grown must have been farmed organically or fallow-for three years before certification is given. A farmer cannot spray a field one year and be certified organic the next year.
Farmers must conform to certain practices that build the soil, such as composting, cover cropping, crop rotation, etc.
No irradiation or genetic engineering is allowed.
Organic Produce Freqently Asked Questions
Who certifies produce as organically grown?
In New Mexico, a state agency, the New Mexico Department of Agriculture Organic Program is the body that inspects and certifies local farms as organic. Three inspectors are charged by the Program to make farm visits and check the records of the growers. On the basis of the reports from these inspectors, a decision is made whether to certify the farm. These certifications are renewed annually. In states where no governmental agency exists, certification is done by private certification agencies.
How do I know its organic?
At the Co-op, we will only use the word “organic” to label produce that has been certified by a state or industry body.
What does “pesticide-free” mean?
This term has been taken over by the conventional produce industry in an attempt to reassure customers concerned about pesticide use. Used on conventionally grown produce, this term only means that the harvested produce tests below the “acceptable” standards for residue. However, pesticides could have been used in the growing process and chemical fertilizers and herbicides have probably been used. At the Co-op, we will only use the term “pesticide-free” to indicate produce that has never been sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides. Many times we use “pesticide-free” to label produce from local farms or gardens which follow organic practices but are too small to afford organic certification.
If its grown in Mexico, how can it be certified organic?
The New Mexico Department of Agriculture Organic Program is a state agency that over sees organic certification in New Mexico. All farms that are certified in New Mexico must meet national organic standards as overseen by NMDOAOP. The NMDOAOP also does extensive farmer continuing education on a variety of farming issues. There are several private certification agencies that certify farms in Mexico. These farms must meet the same national standards required of farmers in the U.S. to obtain certification.
How can they grow such beautiful organic apples without pesticides?
Organic apple growers are increasingly turning to pheremones (chemical signals emitted by insects) to disrupt the mating process of coddling moths. This process is expensive, and many farmers simply cull out the damaged apples turning over between 20 to 80% of their crops to processors (for making cider, applesauce, etc.) and only sell undamaged apples to produce markets.
Why does organic cost more?
Instead of relying on herbicides to kill weeds, organic farmers pull weeds. Conventional cherries are sprayed to make the cherries drop—organic fruit are not treated in this manner. Organic farming is more costly and labor intensive-and thus more costly in terms of point of sales, but the health benefits of eating food that has not been treated with synthetic chemicals or other unsafe treatments will save money in healthcare in the future. And the environmental benefits of reduced chemical input use, cover cropping and soil building increase carbon sequestration and aid in mitigating the effects of global climate change.