By Mary Kuhlman
COLUMBUS, Ohio – “Free-range,” “natural,” “authentic” – with so many labels on foods these days, it can be a bit dizzying for consumers to figure out what they all mean. Experts say the “certified organic” label stands out from the pack, because it is the only one that verifies that a product is produced and processed without pesticides, artificial ingredients, preservatives or irradiation.
Carol Goland, executive director of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, explains that farmers and processors have to go through a very involved process on an annual basis to use the label, and it is highly verified.
“‘Certified organic’ is really kind of a prestigious label. By and large, unless it says ‘certified organic,’ it is not organic, and consumers can’t have that assurance.”
Goland says “certified organic” food is grown in healthy soil, and there is increasing evidence that it is nutritionally superior. Because of the emphasis on environmental protections, consumers also know when they purchase “certified organic” they are safeguarding environmental health, she adds.
Adam Welly runs Wayward Seed Farm, Marysville. He says he has been using organic practices since the beginning and felt it was an important step to become verified.
“‘Naturally grown’ is a term that’s just being used so loosely. We ended up certifying organic because we felt it was our strongest step toward creating complete transparency with our customers.”
By becoming “certified organic,” Welly says he has learned more about weed control and pest management. And he says consumers should know that a lot of work goes into organic growing.
“Just because it’s becoming more mainstream to have ‘certified organic’ vegetables, we shouldn’t take for granted the fact that there is a lot of due diligence. In fact, in this climate that we have here in Ohio, there are a lot of challenges.”
Ohio has more than 500 “certified organic” operations and nearly 53,000 acres of “certified organic” pasture and cropland.