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What makes food Organic and is it worth the extra money?

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

**This blog was written for and published by Got Your Back Foundation Non-Profit. See original link below:

These days, everything from fresh produce to bottled water seems to have the word “Organic” plastered on the label. But what does “Organic” really mean? Just because something is organic, does that make it healthier? There is a lot of misinformation about organic foods in the media, but GYB is here to help you sift through it and make well-informed food purchases! 

In order to understand organic food, we must first understand the basics of how it grows. 

Farming requires a perfectly orchestrated combination of sun, soil and water to allow for anything to grow from the ground. The soil itself contains many different compounds, but two of the most important are minerals and microorganisms, such as fungi and worms. These microorganisms are primarily responsible for controlling the flow of water in the soil. If those microorganisms were not there, the soil would suffer and the resulting plants would be “sick” due to lack of water and an improper mineral balance. 

Conventional farming methods include using pesticides, herbicides and fungicides which all deter the pesky bugs and animals that may eat or destroy the plants. However, they also kill off those vital microorganisms. The result? Improper mineral balance in the soil, leading to nutrient deficient plants. The main reason we all eat fruits and veggies is for their nutritious value, but when they are grown from poor soil, those nutrients are nowhere to be found. Not to mention all the well known ill effects of the chemical treatments themselves. Furthermore, when animals eat these “sick” plants, they are also robbed of vital nutrients and become sick. When we eat their meat or drink their milk, we suffer the same fate. 

True organic farming begins with the soil and strives to properly balance the minerals within it, allowing food to grow properly without the use of harsh chemicals that we see in conventional farming. In other words, “farming as nature intended.”

So put simply, true organically grown food is more nutrient-rich and does not contain the same harmful chemicals as conventionally farmed food. Organics are worth your money! 

For more info check out the work of Dr. Virginia Worthington. She has done extensive research and reviewed thousands of studies that contrast organics vs conventional food and examines how the nutrient quantity and quality differ greatly between the two. 

But be wary, not everything marked “Organic” is true to its label. The unfortunate truth is that in our suburban world it’s quite tough to find true organic farms and foods. There are many large corporations that offer “organic certifications” to farms for large amounts of money, with little to no soil testing.  This means much of what you may find in your grocery stores organic section, while legally allowed to be called organic, is not necessarily coming from organic soil. Initiatives such as the Real Organic Project aim to shed light on this issue and help ensure farms are running under truly organic standards. 

So what’s the solution? How do we find real, honest organic food? 

  1. In the grocery store, look for the words “Certified Organic” or “Bio-dynamic” rather than just “organic.” 

  2. Buy direct from farms: Farmers markets are popping up everywhere (especially now that it’s springtime) and many farms ship locally or can arrange for pickup. Be sure to chat with the farmers to get an idea of their farming practices. If they used pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, steer clear! 

  3. Grow your own. This may sound simple, but there’s no better way to control how your food is grown than doing it yourself! If you aren’t able to grow your own, check out Urban Beet, an amazing non-profit local to DC whose mission is to provide real, healthy foods to those who otherwise can’t access them. 

  4. Utilize online delivery services: There are plenty of honest online services created to deliver quality organic meats, dairy and produce right to your front door! 

For more information about organic food and farming, be sure to check out the Organic Consumers Association.

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