Understanding The Basics of Organic

What does “Organically Grown” mean? What sort of commitment does it take to join the ranks of successful organic producers? To help clarify some possible misconceptions, we at Rainbow Valley Orchards want to introduce you to organic growing by briefly describing what’s involved. To begin with, two relatively new laws on the books, the California Organic Foods Act of 1990 and the Federal Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, provide strict guidelines for production of food products labeled as “organically grown” and allows dedicated growers to market their product in a manner which gives consumers complete faith in purchasing healthful products produced under controlled conditions.

Organic Defined

For tree crops, in order to represent your fruit as organically grown, you must have grown it for 36 months prior to the harvest of your fruit without the use of “Synthetically Compounded or Manufactured” fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, or growth regulators. Producing crops organically in California means that growers use allowed, certified organic fertilizers such as “composted” manures, blood meal, fishmeal, powdered seaweed, mined rock minerals, etc.

Pest management is accomplished by using such alternatives as beneficial insects, botanical and/or biodegradable insecticidal soaps or powders, accepted summer or dormant oil sprays, copper bands for snail control, and boric acid bait systems or sticky plant resin for ant control instead of using conventional pesticides for controlling insects. Cover crops such as clover, and other nitrogen fixing legumes, tractor mowing and cultivating, and hand hoeing are utilized to replace herbicides.

That’s a basic overview, but there are a growing number of accepted organic materials to accommodate the most modern methods of production under the California and Federal laws. We recommend that you check with your local California Department of Food and Agriculture Weights and Measures office or nearest federally approved Certification agency for a current list of approved materials and for a further understanding of what can and cannot be used. Another popular agency to check with is the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI). You can check their website online. We at Rainbow Valley Orchards maintain a current organic materials list made available only to members of our grower group.

You may qualify under the law to use the organic label if you have followed these guidelines for the period specified above. If, however, you used any synthetic or manufactured fertilizers during that same period, you could not, by law, market your product as organically grown. Examples of synthetic/manufactured fertilizers are Urea, 15-15-15, and Ammonium Nitrate. By definition, these are formulated by a process, which chemically changes a material or substance extracted from a natural occurring plant, animal, or mineral source, thus producing an unnatural, synthetic product.

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