What is USDA certified organic label?

When a food item has the USDA certified organic label it means it is...

  • 100% non-GMO
  • Grown without toxic pesticides & fertilizers
  • Free of antibiotics and growth hormones
  • Does not contain artificial dyes, flavors, colors or preservatives.
  • Produced in a way that builds soil health and conserves natural resources
Any farm that has the USDA organic seal is inspected and certified annually to ensure the farm's practices meet the standards of the National Organic Program (NOP). In Kentucky, the most common organic certifier is the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

How does organic farming benefit the environment?

When farmers use organic practices they improve the health of the soil, water, and land using the following techniques:

  1. Cover Crops- Farmers use a variety of cover crops (i.e. hairy vetch, winter rye, field peas, crimson clover, buckwheat, etc.) and plant these between cash crops to reduce soil erosion, increase soil organic matter, and suppress weeds.
  2. Crop rotation-in order to break up pest cycles and reduce fertilizer use organic farmers will make sure to rotate crops that are in the same plant family and avoid continually planting them in the same location.
  3. Non-toxic weed suppression-by using methods like minimal tillage, plasticulture, hand tools, weed cloth, and flame weeding farmers can avoid toxic herbicides that might otherwise harm other plants, animals, and microbes in the soil.
  4. Non-toxic insect control-using practices like diverse crop rotations, beneficial insects, and catch crops farmers control pests and promote more biodiversity and pollinators by avoiding synthetic pesticides.
  5. Natural amendments-using naturally-derived sources of fertility like green manures, compost, kelp, and rock minerals farmers add nutrients to the soil and avoid excess nitrogen running off and polluting nearby waterways.

How does eating organic foods impact your health?

Certified organic farmers prioritize growing practices that improve soil health over time. Healthier soils grow healthier plants that produce more nutrient-dense foods. When you purchase organic foods you can expect....

  • More antioxidants in fruits and vegetables that boost cancer-protective flavanols and anthocyanins.
  • Higher concentrations of specific nutrients. For example, organic strawberries have more Vitamin C and fiber than conventional strawberries.
  • Reduced exposure to pesticide residues on items like fresh produce.

What is regenerative organic agriculture?

Regenerative refers to the verb regenerate or regrow. Regenerative agriculture focuses on organic practices that not only conserve natural resources but restore and build them. This is an important clarifying term since organic farming is more than what you are NOT doing but also WHAT you are doing to benefit the land. Kentucky Farm Share Coalition farms are very mindful of biodiversity on their farm and work hard to leave the land better than they found it.

What increases the cost of organic foods?

There are several reasons why organic foods cost more than their conventional counterparts. This cost is not just an artificial markup, but reflects differences in the cost of production. How agriculture inputs and scale affects the cost of food:

  • Organic seeds, fertilizers, animal feed, and other amendments generally cost more to purchase than conventional options.
  • Organic farmers often have higher labor costs for their production so they can properly manage weeds and pests without toxic chemicals.
  • Organic farms often have higher feed costs for their livestock because organic grain costs more. They also generally have higher standards for animal welfare in order to promote animal’s natural behaviors which often require more space and labor. Organic farm operations are usually smaller and this usually comes with higher operating costs than a large conventional farm.

How does organic farming mitigate climate change?

On average, organic farms emit 40% less greenhouse gases than conventional farms, and soils under organic management actually sequester more carbon. Here's why...

  • Organic farming promotes more living roots in the soil that nourish microbial life that can help sequester more carbon.
  • Organic farmers do not apply synthetic nitrogen fertilizers or pesticides that generate a lot of carbon emissions when produced.
  • Conventional farms are generally at a larger scale and use more diesel fuel in their farming system that also come with a higher carbon footprint.

Where can farmers learn more about transitioning to certified organic?

Visit the Organic Association of Kentucky website, explore organic certification resources, and get in touch with us if you are looking for organic transition support in Kentucky.

Can organic farming feed the world?

The common critique of organic farming is that the crop yields are lower than conventional systems, thus requiring more land, and making it impossible to feed the growing global population. However, this doesn't take into account the whole picture. Benefits of an organic farming system:

  • Conventional crop yields are typically higher than organic yields initially, but overtime organic systems tend to perform better due to higher soil organic matter, especially in cases of severe weather and drought.
  • Only looking at the raw output of a farming system does not take into account the hidden costs of conventional farming that include higher costs related to human illness and environmental degradation.
  • When considering scalability, organic farming still only makes up less than 1% of the total farmland in the United States. There is a need for a greater investment in organic farming research and technical support to expand the movement and promote innovations at a larger scale.