What is Organic

sun prairie organic logoCertified organic products are grown and processed in accordance with specific guidelines and standards, as established by a certifying agency. Adherence to the standards is verified annually through a third party inspection. Detailed records must be maintained documenting farming practices, materials use, purchases, inventories and sales. Through the use of lot numbers, certified organic product can be tracked from the shelf to the field of origin. Materials use is strictly regulated in certified organic production.

Prohibited materials include:

  • Genetically engineered organisms and their derivatives in any form or any stage of production, processing and handling
  • Synthetic pesticides
  • Sewage sludge
  • Food irradiation

Consumers are frequently misled by the words “organic” and “certified organic” on labeling. It is important to find a certification agency seal on the label. If not found, you will need to search for the vendor and request the organic certificate pertaining to that item. Some example agencies are:

  • O.C.I.A. (Organic Crop Improvement Association Intl.)
  • S.A.A. (Sustainable Agriculture Association of Alberta)

A certified organic farm is required to work towards:

  • Optimum soil fertility
  • Enhancing biological diversity
  • Minimizing erosion and water pollution
  • Establishing living conditions for animals that are appropriate for the species

The ideal is to create a self-sustaining farm ecosystem with a minimum of outside inputs. The main goal is to work with natural processes such as nutrient cycling and pest/predator relationships.

Production using organic fruit trees is much the same as raising organic vegetables, but is more difficult. You find the same principles, though. It begins for trees with healthy dirt as it does with other crops. Orchard maintenance history goes from fully manual labor through the use of herbicides and tractors. Weed control before chemicals was done via horse drawn equipment and hand-pulling. Soil compaction was not an issue and growing ground biodiversity was a given. When herbicides and tractors became prevalent, orchardists experienced erosion and soil compaction beyond that acceptable for proper tree growth. A decline in tree branch and root development and soil microorganisms meant lessened yield and a reduction in overall tree health. It didn’t take an arborist or tree expert (website) to tell the growers what the problems were.

orchard tree alley cropOrchardists began planting other crops (alley) under their stands of fruit trees. The organic material derived from these alley crops boosted soil structure, soil aeration, moisture absorption and the uptake of nutrients. These factors helped deliver better tree health and root development. Growing an orchard organically was the best way to produce fruit.

Soil management is based on optimizing soil life through diverse crop rotations, which include elements such as nitrogen-fixing legume crops or till down of legume green manures. Additional tools for building healthy soil may be the use of compost, composted manures, or rock powders.

A certified organic processing facility must maintain the organic integrity of the product. This means no commingling with conventional materials during storage, processing, or transport; and no contamination with substances such as sanitation or pest control agents. Organic processing should strive to retain the nutritional value of food. Physical and biological processes are preferred as compared to chemical methods. Even though “certified organic” processed food may contain up to 5% of non-organic ingredients, the latter must be from an approved list of materials. Certified organic processing facilities and products must comply with all federal, provincial and industry regulations.

Along with the increased interest in human organic foods, many pet owners are thinking about what to feed their dogs and cats. The standards for true organic domestic animal foods are not crystal clear. Some organizations such as The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) are helping. It is a voluntary group of federal, local and state organizations otherwise empowered to regulate animal feed distribution and sales. If you are concerned about what is fed your pet at your boarding kennel, usually you can bring your own food. Otherwise ask them about what they feed. See organic pet food for more on pet foods. Guidelines are provided by the AAFCO to help states build their own regulations on pet foods but have no enforcement authority against boarding kennels or veterinary clinics that claim to abide by those guidelines.

For more information about Organic Certification feel free to contact:

Llizabet K. Dwwyor, M.Sc., P.Ag., Organic Specialist and Inspector.

To learn more about Materials Use and Organic Standards, please visit the following web sites:

  • Organic Materials Review Institute http://www.omri.org
  • International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements http://www.ifoam.org
  • Organic Trade Association https://www.ota.com/
  • Canadian Organic Advisory Board http://www.coab.ca

Natural Tree and Plant Pest Control

If you are someone who can’t stand to despoil your tree and vegetable garden with a bunch of chemical pesticides, the whole gardening exercise becomes extra challenging. It doesn’t have to be that though. There are several common sense solutions on offer if you happen to be a gardener who likes things to be natural and who enjoys toying around with nontraditional methods of protecting his crop.

It doesn’t take a lot to fashion all kinds new natural pest control contraptions, to bring in the right counter-predatory measures and to use organic solutions to your problem. It takes patience and a kind of glee in seeing how nature can be used to battle some of the problems that it creates.

Let’s first get with a kind of pest that doesn’t so much bother your plants as it does you as you toil away at your tree grove and garden in the heat of summer weeding, digging and planting – we’re talking about flies and wasps of course. But gardeners wouldn’t complain so much about the personal bother that they were if they weren’t so bad for their plants. Help is at hand with an ingenious design in a simple wasp trap you can make out of empty soda bottles though. All you need would be a few clear plastic bottles with labels removed, and filled at the bottom with a little thick sweet syrup. All kinds of insects will go in unable to resist the sweet, and will stay in there completely confused about how to make their way back out. This is such a successful method that they even make decorative bottles with stands and other placement needs.

For pests that are not attracted by sweet syrup, organic pesticides exist that can help you in your quest for natural pest control. What arborists and gardeners use is something called diatomaceous earth. They mix it in with water and spray it all over their garden, especially over flowering branches. Visiting insects will be turned away by the poisonous diatomaceous earth that tends to corrode them. The only problem with these is that friendly garden insects like butterflies and ladybugs can be turned away too this way.

Natural pest control methods work with larger pests too – like rabbits for instance. Have you ever tried to grow a stand of new trees or vegetable garden with any rabbits around? They think it’s a buffet set out for them. The best way to keep rabbits or deer out of your vegetable patches would be to use wire cages built of chicken or rabbit wire. You build a cage yourself to fit over each vegetable patch, and you should be safe. A better way though would be to plant garlic all around your trees and vegetable garden. Lots of animals hate the smell, as do lots of people. It’s just a really smart way to deter animals from making their way in and thinking that there’s something delicious there for them.