Why Organic Farming Matters
The organic movement began in the early twentieth century. Rooted in a desire to address ecological, social, and health problems created by modern agriculture, early organic farmers promoted a “holistic notion that the health of a nation built on agriculture is dependent on the long-term vitality of its soil.”1
Early advocates recognized the connection between soil and plant nutrition. They primarily focused on humus farming, which uses a variety of traditional farming techniques for sustainable soil management. This includes methods such as crop rotation, composting, and green manuring to build healthy soil.
Humus farmers did not believe in taking shortcuts, which were becoming popular through synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Many believed these synthetic chemicals were harmful and that modern agricultural practices led to the mismanagement of natural resources.
But, were they right?
Today, an increasing number of studies link the world’s most commonly used synthetic herbicide, glyphosate, to numerous environmental and health concerns. Chemicals aren’t the only concern organic farming addresses. Genetically engineered crops, which are tied to herbicide use, also present ecological concerns. We talk about glyphosate and GMOs separately because there’s a lot to unpack.
Modern industrial farming is too often focused on profit and quantity rather than sustainability and producing quality food. To protect our soil, water, air, and biodiversity, organic farmers take extra steps even though it requires more labor and record keeping.
At The Oven Door, you’ll find several brands with impressive organic efforts. One Degree Organic Foods, for example, goes the extra mile (literally) to connect you with the farmers behind every ingredient for total food transparency. Little Northern Bakehouse and Silver Hills Sprouted Bakery also have organic lines, offering you more choice when it comes to finding products to fit your lifestyle.
Because you vote with your fork, we hope to empower you with knowledge. In this article, we focus on why organic farming matters, understanding food labeling, and how you can support organic farms. Here are quick links to each section:
- What Organic Farming Means for People and the Planet
- Food Labeling: The Difference Between Natural and Organic
- How to Support Organic Farming as a Consumer
Health, ecology, and fairness are at the core of the organic movement.2 Most organic farmers take great pride in the care and methods they use to grow organic food. And for good reason. Organic farming benefits the environment and human health.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), organic agriculture is a proactive approach to sustainability that considers medium and long-term effects on agroecosystems.3 This means organic farming takes into account the impact agriculture has on water, soil, air, climate change, and biodiversity.
This isn’t just lip service. On average, organic farming increases biodiversity by about 30%.4 Organic farms also emit less greenhouse gas and have higher soil and water quality.5
Because organic farming does not rely on agrochemicals, it reduces pesticide exposure for consumers as well as farm workers. This is especially important considering the fact that the world’s most commonly used herbicide, glyphosate, is actually absorbed by plants and cannot be washed off or cooked out of your food.6
In case you missed it earlier, you can learn more about glyphosate here.
Other benefits of organic farming include more rural employment opportunities as well as slightly higher levels of micronutrients.5
While the direct benefits of organic farming are exciting, it’s important to also note that it has an impact on the modern agricultural industry, too. Often, organic farms serve as a testing ground for new methods of crop rotation, composting, and soil management. In other words, they’re making advances in sustainable practices that conventional farming neglects.7
Food Labeling: The Difference Between Natural and Organic
If you are looking for organic products, it’s important to understand food labeling. Claims like “all natural” and “real fruit juice” don’t necessarily equate to “organic”. Instead, look for the USDA Organic label.
The USDA has specific standards and regulations for products bearing its seal. You can read the full list of regulations on the USDA website, but in a nutshell:
“USDA certified organic foods are grown and processed according to federal guidelines addressing, among many factors, soil quality, animal-raising practices, pest and weed control, and use of additives. Organic producers rely on natural substances and physical, mechanical, or biologically-based farming methods to the fullest extent possible.”8
For multi-ingredient products, 95% of the content must be certified organic in order to use the USDA Organic label. Products with at least 70% organic content can make the claim “made with” organic.9 You can often find this information printed on the packaging. For example, many of the Silver Hills Sprouted Bakery products include the “made with” organic ingredients claim on the labels.
Other helpful labels include Non-GMO Project Verified and BioChecked Non Glyphosate Certified. These third-party verifications take extra steps to ensure your food is not only non-GMO, but also free from glyphosate residue that can occur through crop-drift. We feel strongly that these extra steps are important for consumer health, so all products at The Oven Door have the Non-GMO and Non-Glyphosate certifications.
When you choose organic food, you’re voting with your fork.
The growing demand for organic products not only helps drive down prices but creates more opportunities for farmers as well. In fact, consumer demand shows double-digit growth!10
According to the USDA: “Organic products are now available in nearly 20,000 natural food stores and nearly 3 out of 4 conventional grocery stores.”10
Aside from choosing organic brands, it’s also important to support policies that impact organic practices and research. For example, you can support organizations like the Organic Farmers Association, which gives organic farmers representation for policy changes and Washington D.C.
Organic farming is not only important for our environment but also for healthier food options. When you choose organic brands, you support sustainable farming practices and help influence the market.
The Oven Door is committed to supporting organic farmers by connecting you with delicious organic options. In particular, One Degree Organic Foods gives you a chance to trace your food back to the source. Every package includes a QR code. Once scanned, you can meet the organic farmers behind each ingredient, giving you a unique connection to what you eat.
Here are some of our favorite One Degree products:
1. Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture. (2010). A Brief Overview of the History and Philosophy of Organic Agriculture. http://kerrcenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/organic-philosophy-report.pdf
2. The Four Principles of Organic Agriculture. (n.d.). IFOAM. https://www.ifoam.bio/why-organic/shaping-agriculture/four-principles-organic
3. Organic Agriculture: What are the environmental benefits of organic agriculture? (n.d.). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. http://www.fao.org/organicag/oa-faq/oa-faq6/en/
4. Tuck, S. L., Winqvist, C., Mota, F., Ahnström, J., Turnbull, L. A., & Bengtsson, J. (2014). Land‐use intensity and the effects of organic farming on biodiversity: a hierarchical meta‐analysis. Journal of Applied Ecology, 51(3), 746–755. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.12219
5. Seufert, V., & Ramankutty, N. (2017a). Many shades of gray—The context-dependent performance of organic agriculture. Science Advances, 3(3), e1602638. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1602638
6. Saunders, L., & Pezeshki, R. (2015). Glyphosate in Runoff Waters and in the Root-Zone: A Review. Toxics, 3(4), 462–480. https://doi.org/10.3390/toxics3040462
7. Seufert, V., & Ramankutty, N. (2017b, March 10). Organic farming matters - just not in the way you think. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/organic-farming-matters-just-not-in-the-way-you-think-74124
8. Organic 101: What the USDA Organic Label Means. (2012b, March 22). USDA. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2012/03/22/organic-101-what-usda-organic-label-means
9. Organic | Agricultural Marketing Service. (n.d.). USDA. https://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards/organic-standards
10. USDA ERS - Organic Market Summary and Trends. (2021). USDA. https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/natural-resources-environment/organic-agriculture/organic-market-summary-and-trends/