Farmer Marketing

Simple, inventive ways to increase the value of farm fresh products through direct marketing, internet marketing, and creativity.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

"Certified Organic" vs. The True Intent of Organic Produce

I first thought of just updating my last post on the benefits of organic produce, but my recent reading in the blogosphere has motivated me to elaborate further on what the term "certified organic" means versus the spirit of organic.

Certified Organic

The term "certified organic" was introduced by the government to regulate the growing market for produce grown without the use of artificial pesticides, herbicides, etc. This was in response to valid complaints from strict organic growers that the term "organic" was being used by unqualified producers. I believe the intent was correct even though I don't believe the government needs to do everything for consumers. Anyway, it was intended to indicate producers that were truly committed to organic produce and help consumers identify and buy from those producers.


Of course, it wasn't long before big businesses realized that the "certified organic" label meant a higher price premium and more profits. So many large corporations now are pursuing "certified organic" labeling for their products. This allows them to get their wares in small, health-oriented stores as well as on the shelves of your local superstore. I don't necessarily disagree with the labeling or the increasing availability of "certified organic" products. However, I believe the spirit of organic production is being lost in a battle of definition and regulation.

The True Intent of Organic Produce

In my 15 years of selling produce at a small farmers' market, I have realized that growing produce naturally is only about half of the story for customers wanting organic produce. Of course there are the health benefits, but the other half of the story is what I want to emphasize. When customers come to me week after week they develop a relationship with me as the grower of their produce. They have purchased great tasting, fresh produce from me in the past and so they keep coming back for more. So you might say the superior quality, both taste and freshness, is what keeps my customers coming back. But again you would be missing what I feel is the biggest point: they TRUST me! They know I am a local grower from a heritage of farming who pulls weeds by hand, picks by hand, and doesn't apologize when the produce is less than perfectly shaped or a little dusty. They are willing to eat what I grow because they know where it comes from, not because they know the government has been keeping tabs on me for their protection. This relationship of trust between consumer and producer is what I feel is the heart of "organic" and this is what people need to be looking for. Not a label slapped on fancy packaging, but a producer they know and trust.