Organic, natural, and certified

In the world of foodstuffs, the term “natural” means absolutely nothing. There are no criteria to be met whatsoever. Monsanto can market Roundup as “natural” if it wants.

The word “organic,” however, means a great deal.  To use the USDA “Certifed Organic” label, you must follow strict rules laid down by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP). Becoming certified, however,  is both expensive (up to $800 or more per year, depending on your certifying agent), and time-consuming in terms of record-keeping. If you use the label, and are found to be violating NOP criteria, you can be fined up to $10,000 per violation. In any case, it’s a proud label to bear.

BUT (and it’s a big one for the backyard grower) if you gross less than $5,000 per year in produce sales, the NOP says you can call yourself organic so long as you strictly follow the NOP guidelines. But you can’t use the “Certified Organic” label, or call yourself certified. Be sure to check state laws, however. 

One of my babies waiting for spring.

About lifegrower

Peter V. Fossel has been gardening since he was nine, and has been an organic farmer for the last 20 years. His most recent book, “Organic Farming, Everything You Need to know” was published by Voyageur Press, Minneapolis, 2007. He’s written numerous gardening articles for Organic Gardening, Horticulture, Country Journal, Out Here, and American Profile among others. He was Gardens Manager for The Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson in Tennessee before returning to Cape Cod to start his newest organic venture, Swan River Farm in Dennisport, MA.
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