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So what is USDA Certified Organic?

May 24, 2022

We live in a world where the right initials after your name trumps experience, a world where a federal blessing carries clout. Just what does it mean when a product or a farm carries that sought after brand? This is a brief history, as well as a rant of sorts.

Back in the day, my day, about mid 80’s, the owner of Whole Foods (when it was one small store in Austin, Texas) was up in the Ozarks buying some weed when he noticed that the grower’s home food garden was kickin’. What came from that was the coop Ozark Organic Growers, the non-profit, Ozark Small Farm Viability Project for grant writing, and the final piece, Forge, a bank. That is a whole history book. The bottom line is that a bunch of organic farmers from the Ozarks became Whole Foods’ produce department.

During that chapter, one of our growers was asked to be in the circle that wrote Certified Organic for the USDA. Before that we certified each other, visiting each other’s farms and documenting each other’s systems. We all had only J.I. Rodale and his magazine as a guide to our individual practices. Finding products was difficult and sharing techniques harder.

When the USDA decided to engage in this system of production our markets were slim. Showing up at a farmers market with “Organic” food was met with skepticism, but the large farming operations were watching the market grow and wanted in. The USDA made the transition as easy as possible from years of pesticide use. Those farmers who had worked for years to build healthy soil were now in the same market as those who had satisfied the new requirements in a couple of years.

So here we are in 2022. Many old school producers have chosen to “pass” on what is basically a marketing tool. The uneducated buyer feels that they are getting the cleanest product available. While that is true in most cases, it’s not overall. As the government does, this certification requires a plethora of documentation which does not allow for locally acquired products. Compost, for example, should be purchased and trucked across the country because it carries the right initials. Okay. I’m done.

My CBD products are clean. No pesticides, heavy metals. No Certified Organic. Living soil that gets better by the season. Oh, by the way, Willie Nelson also bought his stash from the Ozarks. We got something goin’ on here.

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