Sustainable Agriculture vs Organic

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created February 05, 2013 at 8:30 PM

I'll start off by saying I'm pretty noob to organic produce. I was thinking about signing up with a local CSA, but noticed they consider their farms as "sustainable agriculture" vs. organic. Does anyone know how much of a difference this would make? I know it would definitely be better than buying produce from the larger markets.. but I just wanted to get the community's take on this :)


Here's some info on the farm: http://www.underwoodfamilyfarms.com/Sustainable_Agriculture.html

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on February 06, 2013
at 02:47 PM

Hi! I've done a lot of research on this topic. "Organic" is a government approved label and requires a government approved certifier inspect the farms, as with any government approved label you have to jump through a lot of hoops, and it can end up costing you a lot of money. Additionally, the "Organic" label only means that the pesticides used are "organic", and not conventional (even though many approved chemicals are from major corporations, and that the animals are not fed antibiotics or growth hormones. It does not necessarily mean that the animals have a nice life, or even a humane death. Additionally, since "organic" requires only government sanctioned products, there are many excellent farms that are not eligible for the "organic" stamp. This can be true if the farmer makes the feed for his animals out of things grown or discarded on the farm, so many Polyface farms (farms that have many different kinds of animals and plants) are immediately out of the organic boat. This can also be true if the farmer makes his own fertilizer, there are very strict regulations on where fertilizers come from, etc. So, it's really best to just know the farms own practices and beliefs. There are also many organic or sustainable farms that still grow a very commercialized breed of chickens and turkeys, they do so for the rapid growth and early kill time. It's nice to find out how they select breeds, too.



on February 05, 2013
at 08:37 PM

Talk to the farmers. Often, small and sustainable farms are organic in all but name, because organic certification is not cost-efficient for them. "Sustainable" could have any number of meanings.



on February 06, 2013
at 02:23 PM

Sustainable agriculture often refers more to the land practices rather than speicifically the food product. For example, permaculture design ensuring soil health, a more natural co-existance of species, habitiat-friendly growing beds etc. All great things but not necessarily as related to the end product as an "organic" label.



on February 05, 2013
at 10:47 PM

Unless you control the product from seed to plate, hard to know really what the quality is. Organic isn't necessarily better.

Based on what you posted, they're fairly conventional, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Sounds like they're as organic as you can be but not taking options off the table when the shit hits the fan. Very reasonable in my opinion, but if dogma interests you, I'd look else.

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