“What is Organic?” Thoughts by Greg Maslowe of Newton Community Farm

The following is an edited excerpt from an article by Greg Maslowe in Newton Community Farm’s 6/29/15 e-bulletin.

What do you think organic means? Almost invariably the response is some version of “You don’t spray anything.” This usually leads to a discussion of what Eliot Coleman of Four Season Farm in Maine calls “shallow” organic and “deep” organic and how these relate to the National Organic Program (NOP) rules. Organic, as it turns out, does not mean “no spraying.” The NOP maintains a list of pesticides that are allowed for organic use. There are many other aspects of the organic rules, but I like to talk about this one, spraying pesticides, because 1) most people think that organic means no spraying; and 2) it lends itself to discussing shallow versus deep organic practices.

Garden creatures—bees, predatory insects, snakes, and amphibians—are adversely affected by pesticide use. While the pesticides approved for organic use are, generally speaking, safer and less toxic than those used in “conventional” agriculture, many of them are still broad spectrum, killing indiscriminately. And while they may break down faster and so not remain active in the environment as long, if you’re using them on a regular basis, that’s still a lot of poison. As a farmer, I take as my guide the idea that I want to do the least amount of harm I can. And I take as an indication of my success all the thriving wildlife here that demonstrate the importance of farming the way we do at Newton Community Farm.

Greg Maslowe, Farmer