Organic

Organic farmers work hard to produce healithier, more flavourful fruits and vegetables. This philosophy, though seemingly simply, has a profound effect on the farming methods used by organic farmers.

Organic agriculture is often considered a subset of sustainable agriculture and they share many of the same principles, including an emphasis on soil health, natural fertilizers, biodiversity, and natural pest, weed, and disease control. The most notable difference between sustainable farming and organic farming is that the organics industry has a strong certification process.

Learn more about organic produce below, or view our organic products page.

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Organic farmers use natural methods, such as crop rotation, reduced tillage and natural fertilizers to promote soil health, fight weeds, pests and disease.

Crop Rotation

Crop rotation is the process of planting different crops on the same land in sequential seasons. For example, cereal crops like corn are often planted in one season followed by legumes, such as soybeans in the following season.

• Complementary crops replenish soil nutrients. Corn, for instance, sucks nitrates from the soil and soy beans put nitrogen back into the soil.
• Alternatin between different crops disrupts weed and pest life cycles.
• Reduces soil exposure and degradation.

Soil coverage

In nature soil remains covered throughout the year with organic matter, which moderates temperature extremes, improves water absorption, enhances aeration, and protects soil from wind and rain erosion.

• Cover crops like clover and alfalfa offer perennial soil coverage
• A mulch layer is often placed over exposed land.

Reduced Tillage

Organic farmers avoid activities like moldboard plowing. Turning over soil causes significant damage, since fertile top soil is buried beneath nutrient poor sub-soil. Top soil is rich in plant matter and once buried this organic matter is unable to decay properly. Also, sub-soil has little plant matter, making it much more susceptible to erosion.

Minimal Chemical Fertilizers

Intensive farming places high demands on the land. Crops take nutrients out of the soil that must be replaced for use in future season. Chemical fertilizers offer a short-term solution to nutrient depletion, but they cause serious problems in the long-run. Run-off, for example, pollutes rivers and streams. In addition, plants require several different nutrients, while chemical fertilizers provide relatively few compounds, leading to soil exhaustion. By contrast, sustainability farmers use natural methods to maintain soil nutrients as outlined below.

Biodiversity- Each plant requires a certain set of nutrients and planting the same crop continuously depletes such nutrients. Growing a variety of crop types prevents depletion of specific nutrients.
• Crop rotation helps to replenish the soil with vital nutrients.
• Catch crops reduce mineral leaching
• Composts and aged manures are ideal, eco-friendly fertilizers.
• Biodiversity. Each plant requires a certain set of nutrients and planting the same crop continuously depletes such nutrients. Growing a variety of crop types prevents depletion of specific nutrients.
• Crop rotation helps to replenish the soil with vital nutrients.
• Catch crops reduce mineral leachin




Natural pest, weed & disease control

Pests, weeds and disease are factors that all farmers struggle with. Sustainability farmers use natural methods to prevent and control these factors.

• Biological control: insects such as spiders and mites prey on unwanted pests keeping pest populations at bay
• "Farmscaping" is the process of building habitats for natural control agents • Pure crop plantations have a higher concentration of resources that can sustain large populations of crop specific pests.
• Diverse plant types prevent pests from recognizing their preferred food source. Certain insects locate green plants against a brown soil background and ignore areas with total plant coverage. Other insects recognize plants by smell and plant diversity dilutes the odor of individual plants, preventing insects from locating their preferred food source.
• Sod crops out compete weeds for resources, preventing them from spreading.
• Clean farm equipment to prevent weed seeds from being replanted.
• Guard against introduction of weeds from outside sources.
• Disease control begins with a healthy soil that produces robust plants.
• Plant clean seeds.
• Sterilize farm equipment

Biodiversity

• Greater diversity produces greater stability within the system and minimizes pest problems.
• Crop rotation increases biodiversity and helps break weed and pest life cycles, and provides complementary fertilization among crops in the planting sequence.
• Borders, windbreaks, and special plantings provide habitat for beneficial organisms that are natural enemies of pests.
• The addition of cover crops hold soil and nutrients in place, conserving soil moisture with mowed or standing dead mulches.

Certification

• Certified organic is a term given to products that are grown according to a set of standards as outlined by a certifying body.
• There are several international and domestic certifying bodies of which the Quality Assurance International (QAI), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) are the most recognisable.
• The certification criteria differs between certifying bodies, but the following is generally true of all certifying bodies.

i. A farmer wishing to be certified must request an independent inspection of the farm before certification is granted. Conversion of a conventional farm to an organic farm takes between 3-4 years.
ii. Inspectors are independant of the certifying bodies.
iii.To maintain certification, farmers and wholesalers must maintain the organic integrity of the product and maintain a document trail for auditing purposes.
iv. Farms are inspected on a yearly basis and suprise inspections occur periodically