There are two main reasons why people buy organic food. The first stems from the idea that organic foods are a healthier choice over non-organic because of the lack of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and the second is a sense that the organic practices of farming are better for the environment and ultimately, therefore, better for all of us.
The basic premise behind the idea that organics are healthier is because the practice of organic farming avoids the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and only uses them as a last resort. This results in less chemical residue on the fruits or vegetables and since many chemicals are stored in the body and build up over time, the fewer chemicals introduced to the human body the better.
Organic farming also extends to livestock where organically grown herds do not receive antibiotics (unless an animal is sick) and farmers do not use growth hormones. In many cases the herds are fed grass and allowed to graze naturally which results in healthier animals and may result in better tasting meats. For certified organic livestock, even the feed that they eat is organic and, similar to fruit and vegetables, the meats have lower amounts of chemicals and are free from genetic modification.
Since chemical fertilizers and pesticides are avoided in organic farming, more sustainable and natural methods of farming are required. Sustainable farming techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost, and mechanical weed control measures are used.
Crop rotation is the practice of following a schedule of different crops grown in a particular field to help maintain the field fertility and avoid the overabundance of any given pest due to planting the same crop over a period of many years.
Green manure is a term used to describe a second intentional planting of another type of plant in a field that will provide a biological advantage to the first crop. An example of green manure is clover that contains nitrogen-fixing bacteria in its roots to provide the nitrogen that the other cash crop needs to grow. Since the crops use up soil nutrients, compost is used on the fields as a way to provide nutrients to the soil without using synthesized chemical fertilizers.
Weed control measures that are used include hand pulling of weeds and the application of such natural products as corn meal gluten that inhibits the growth of weeds. Pest control is more difficult and organic farmers use a variety of methods to control them without using chemical pesticides. One method is to use biological pest control agents such as ladybugs that eat large numbers of aphids and other small insects. In addition, other insects can be introduced which naturally control pest populations.
Through these and other natural and sustainable methods of farming, organic farmers learn to work with the land and with nature to produce their products. The result is fruits, vegetables, and livestock that are healthier and, many would argue, better tasting.
Organic farming is growing in popularity because consumers are more conscious and interested in how the foods they eat are grown and how they get from field to plate. Foods grown naturally provide an appealing alternative to non-organic foods.