Do you ever buy organic products? How do you know they are organic? What does ‘organic’ actually mean? Read on to find out what it means when a product is ‘certified organic’, how a producer becomes certified organic, what is involved in organic farming and the types of organic products you can buy.
What does it mean to be ‘organic’?
You have probably heard the word organic a lot lately, but what does it actually mean? How can you be sure if a product really is organic?
To be certified organic means that a product is grown or manufactured without using any nasty synthetic pesticides, herbicides, hormones or antibiotics. Further, any seed used must be non-genetically modified and farming processes must be water efficient and biodiversity friendly (safe for all living things). Lastly, all organic animals must be free to range (roam) the farm and feed mainly on pasture.
How does a farmer/producer become ‘Certified Organic’?
Did you know that it takes up to three years for a farm to obtain organic certification? For produce to be sold as ‘Certified Organic’, farmers must pass an audit and review process ensuring prohibited chemicals and non-approved farming inputs aren’t used on their farms, and that animal welfare guidelines are strictly followed.
Once a farmer has been certified organic, they can put the ‘Australian Certified Organic’ bud logo on their products.
What is involved in farming organically?
If a farmer wants to become ‘Certified Organic’ lots of different things must be considered as part of the certification process. Here are a just a few.
Healthy soil is the foundation for any crop and is a major focus of organic farming. Healthy soil helps prevent disease and increases yields (the amount of usable crops the farmer gets from planting). Using methods like composting and crop rotation helps to maintain the health of soil without synthetic fertilisers.
Organic farmers must use water efficiently and sustainably. They are required to look after any waterways or wetlands on their property and monitor how much water they use. They can use processes such as mulching and appropriate irrigation (watering) equipment to reduce the amount of water used.
Organic farmers must also make sure that any water leaving the farm is as good, or better, than the quality of the water that is applied to their crops. Water leaving the farm cannot cause pollution, or have any negative impact, on the surrounding environment.
Pest, disease and weed management
Managing pests, diseases and weeds can be challenging when using organic farming principles. Farmers have to be a little more creative by using a combination of methods such as selecting good quality seeds, rotating crops, companion planting and mulching.
Farmers must consider the impact of their farming practices on native flora and fauna, water and biodiversity (impact on all living things).
Organic farming in Australia
Did you know that Australia has the largest area of organic farmland in the world? Most producers are small production farms, but many larger companies are now practising parallel production (producing both conventional and organic produce) on their farmland.
What organic products can I buy?
Have you seen certified organic products at your local supermarket or fresh food market?
Does your family buy organic products?
Did you know that the organic industry is one of Australia’s fastest growing sectors, currently worth $1.72 billion and growing 15% each year? That’s amazing!
Here are some products that have organic options:
Meat and eggs
You can buy organic beef, lamb, pork, chicken, turkey, eggs and more. Just remember that products labelled ‘free range’ are not necessarily organic so make sure you look for the ‘Australian Certified Organic’ bud logo.
Fruit and vegetables
This is probably the most well-known organic category. You can buy certified organic fruits and vegetables in most supermarkets, at farmer’s markets and organic specialty shops.
Yoghurt is one of the fastest growing organic products, but you can also buy organic milk, cheese and butter.
Wool, cotton and textiles
You can even look for certified organic products when you are buying clothes or shoes.
Organic grains can be found in breads, cereals and pasta.
Lots of processed food now have organic options too.
Organic coffee is a very popular product, but you can also buy organic cordials and soft drinks.
Cosmetics, personal care and essential oils
Next time you are washing yourself in the shower, have a look to see if your body wash is certified organic. Lots of cosmetics and personal care products have certified organic options. However, you do have to be careful with these products because many companies use words such as ‘natural’ and ‘eco’ which do not mean organic. Remember, look for the ‘Australian Certified Organic’ bud logo to be sure the product is organic.