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Farmers' Market Blog • "Organic" with a capital "O"

17-Jul-2019

~ from Serena, Farmers' Market Manager ~

My time as farmers' market manager has consisted of layers of learning and unlearning. I have become an onion, I just keep peeling them off.

Every day, my eyes are opened to more struggles that farmers face to making it in 2019. From the massive amount of rain we've had to the perception that locally-grown carrots are not worth $5.

Here's a kicker and my latest layer: the word Organic. It has been opted and co-opted by every arena.

Organic this and organic that, organic inanimate object - just because it sounds nice.

While I agree, organic is a lovely word, it has very serious meaning. Meaning that I didn't comprehend the depths of until I started spending every Thursday and Saturday with farmers. Meaning that should only be used when appropriate.

I've been told that Organic "is a capital O word." To me, this means using the word willy-nilly has implications beyond transparency.

It devalues the farmers who go through the extensive certification process, requiring copious amounts of paperwork and money.

When used without certification, it adds to the whirlwind of trendy words smacked onto food labels in grocery stores, ever-blindfolding consumers.

Growing with sustainable practices is extraordinarily admirable and should be recognized as well. But using that capital O word, when the work of certification has not been completed, only perpetuates the mass confusion of food word branding. Seeing food labeled Organic now makes me take a beat. I pause for reflection on the weight of that word, and the time, energy, stress, work, and dollars that go into being able to utilize that sacred capital O word.

At our farmers' markets, we do not allow the word Organic to be used by a vendor unless they submit proof of certification. It is our effort and goal to provide the framework for food transparency, and I have come to celebrate all the ways that locally-grown food makes its way to my plate.