Fruits and vegetables are among the healthiest – and most delicious -- foods available. As consumers gravitate more and more to whole, fresh, real foods and away from highly processed foods with unrecognizable ingredients, fresh produce is at the center of their focus and even more so, organic fresh produce. In 2017, the organic food market hit $45.2 billion in sales, also breaking through to a new record for an increase of 6.4 percent. Fruits and vegetables continued to be the largest organic food category, recording $16.5 billion in sales in 2017 on 5.3 percent growth – more than one-third of total organic food sales!
Many farmers who grow conventional produce also grow organic produce on dedicated, certified fields and have successfully incorporated some organic farming practices on their conventional farms.
Organic Fresh Produce
The word "organic" refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. Organic fresh produce is grown and processed without the use of conventional or synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, GMOs, sewage sludge, irradiation, artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. Organic farming is focused on creating healthy ecosystems and a healthy environment so that the crops can flourish without conventional chemicals.
Farmers who grow organic produce don't use conventional methods to fertilize and control weeds or pests. Examples of organic farming practices include:
- Natural fertilizers, crop rotation, and cover crops to enhance soil quality, composition and fertility
- Crop rotation, mulch, and hand or mechanical weeding to manage weeds
- Beneficial insects, trap crops, and crop rotation to manage insects
- Cover crops and crop rotation to manage disease
Beyond the substances and methods that may not be used in organic farming, in accordance with the rigorous USDA Organic Standards, all fresh organic produce must be grown using cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that support the cycling of on-farm resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. This means that organic operations must maintain or enhance soil and water quality, while also conserving wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife.
Conventional Fresh Produce
Conventional fresh produce may be grown with variety of powerful chemicals to help manage fertility, pests, and diseases. This may include, but is not limited to:
- Use of chemical fertilizers
- Use of chemical pesticides
- Use of chemical weed killers
- Use of genetically modified organisms which can deliver consistent crops
- Production of only one or two crops in the same field per growing season or year