Organic gardening has grown from a “fad” to a commonplace way of gardening life. With its popularity on the rise, interest in the products that support organic gardening has exploded. But how can a person tell what items are truly organic? Years ago, companies looking to make a quick buck could label a product as organic, regardless of whether or not the product really was.
Those dubious products left farmers and gardeners in a real lurch. For farmers in particular, it was a huge concern. To stay true to organic ideals, they have to ensure that every part of their operation remains organic, and that included pest control and livestock products.
With the public demanding proper labeling, the Organic Materials Review Institute was founded and it soon established a new product certification for organics. With that in place, an organic revolution began around the country in farm fields and in backyards like your own.
Why go organic in the garden?
Transforming a farm or livestock operation from conventional production to an organic one is time consuming and requires a lot of extra effort. For home gardeners, the process may seem just as intense but that’s not entirely true.
Granted, to be strictly 100% organic is difficult. A backyard garden would have to strive to be environmentally neutral in every respect – from its planting soil to its fertilizer and water. The work involved in such a garden would be immense, but it’s important to remember the level in which you actually “go organic” is entirely your choice! You can pick what works for your needs and garden size, and then adjust accordingly. For example, you may be entirely fine with the quality of the water coming from your tap, but that same water may not meet official organic requirements.
Before you actually begin your organic garden, you should ask yourself is “Why do I want to go organic?” Generally, there are three common reasons a person opts to pursue the lifestyle. If you find yourself agreeing with any of these statements, then you’re ready to make the commitment!
- “I want to help the environment.” If you’re one of these people, then you want to change the world, one row of vegetables at a time. You know your small contribution to the effort adds up to big changes down the road.
- “When I eat organic food, I feel better.” You say organic food tastes better, offers more nutritional benefits and ultimately makes living better. Plus, you know exactly what’s going in your body because you’re growing it yourself.
- “I really enjoy working in the garden, and when I do, I want to do it right!” You want to create an organic garden because you love the lifestyle and challenges it presents. You want to run a garden just like your grandparents or great-grandparents did, and it’s simply a bonus to get organic produce out of the deal!
Regardless of your reasoning, proponents point to numerous benefits for growing and consuming organic food. They say:
- Organic crops are higher in essential nutrients and vitamins that your body requires. The validity on this claim, however, has not been completely settled.
- You consume fewer hormones, pesticides, toxins, antibiotics, and other chemicals by opting for organic food.
- The simple fact of working in a garden is said to reduce stress, encourage relaxation, and is a good form of exercise.
- Organically raised plants serve nature better. They foster a better relationship with animals and the environment that would otherwise have to deal with the elements used in conventional gardening. In fact, people who do this sort of organic gardening may not even be raising food. They simply want their flowerbeds, shrubs and yard to be environmentally neutral.
- Organic gardening is said to be about equal in cost to more typical gardening. How so? Though the cost of organic products can be a bit higher than non-organic products, the organic lifestyle ultimately pays off because you end up with better crops that feed you better. Other aspects, including composting, water conservation efforts and fewer health expenses, also help lower the cost of organic production.
While the benefits of organic foods are clear, a question lingers in the mind of many gardeners. They want to know what “organic” really means and what the standards are for supplies labeled as such. The USDA had the same concern and eventually offered this explanation for organic production:
Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.
With such a firm definition, the agency finally had a list of standards that needed to be met in order for a product to properly be considered organic. The final piece of the puzzle was figuring out a way to inform the producers and the public about what products they can use in order to earn organic certification. That dilemma led to the creation of the organization called OMRI.
OMRI, also known as the Organic Materials Review Institute, was founded in 1997 to help organic producers guarantee their operations are indeed organic. This non-profit agency carefully monitors what products adhere to USDA organic standards and publishes a list of products that meet those standards. A farm draws its supplies from the list, which allows its food to maintain its organic status.
For a supply product to achieve OMRI Listed® certification from OMRI, it must successfully pass a litany of tests and reviews from third party agencies. These agencies are recognized by the USDA and OMRI itself for their expertise in the standards of organic production.
Help for organic gardeners
Of course, having OMRI Listed® agricultural products is great for large-scale organic producers, but for backyard gardeners it can be a lot more difficult. For these home gardeners, the problems linger: How do you find OMRI Listed® potting soil in small, garden-sized quantities? Or mulch? Or weed killer? Or bug spray?
Fortunately for home gardeners there is a clear path. Their concerns have been addressed by a few manufacturers interested in supporting a small-scale organic lifestyle. These manufacturers have reached out to consumers with their OMRI Listed® organic materials specifically designed for backyard gardeners.
Safer® Brand, for example, offers a line of pest and weed control products that are OMRI Listed® and meant for consumers.
Its line of OMRI Listed® consumer products includes:
- Fast Acting Weed and Grass Killer – Available in a spray bottle size.
- Garden Fungicide – Controls and prevents black spot, rust, leaf spot and powdery mildew.
- Tomato and Vegetable Insect Killer – Kills more than a dozen harmful insects.
- BioNEEM® – Kills and repels various insects that attack trees, shrubs, ornamentals and flowers.
- Insect Killing Soap – Kills a wide variety of insects, yet safe enough to use on harvest day.
- Want to know more? See Safer®’s full line of products at Avant Garden Decor.
Looking into the future, Safer® Brand and many other companies are working to expand their organic offerings as they cater to the growing population of home gardeners interested in the organic lifestyle.
Products such as those offered by Safer® Brand help organic gardeners raise better, healthier crops. Those crops lead to better, healthier people!
What sort of OMRI Listed® organic products do you need for your organic garden? Leave a comment below!
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