5 Myths About Organic Farming and Food

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5 Myths About Organic Farming and Food

Amy Hepworth dispels some misconceptions.

1. Organic farming is vastly different than conventional farming.

In the last 30 years, the organic movement’s influence on agricultural practices helped increase food awareness. “In the middle” conventional operations — those that avoid certain extremes of industrial production — and small-scale organic farms “are becoming more alike regarding the promotion of soil health,” once solely the mantra of organic growers.

This focus on increasing soil health has touched the entire agriculture landscape, even industrial operations.

2. Many organic farmers don’t use pesticides. 

Almost all produce contains some pesticide residue; however, it is often safe to eat. After the government and the scientific community began enhancing the regulation of conventional farms and certifying organics, pesticides have become safer.

The key to a healthy diet is to eat whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and nuts, so the fear of consuming tainted produce is more harmful to your health than eating whole foods. And, when used properly, synthetic pesticides can be ecological, safe, and effective.


Amy (right) and Gail Hepworth of Hepworth Farms in Milton.

3. Organic food is more nutritious. 

“Nutrition is more about the soil a crop grows in and the genetic variety it holds,” says Hepworth. The rich, complex mineral soil of the Hudson Valley fosters more nutrient uptake than the sandy soil of Florida, for example, even though the Southern fields may grow crops 365 days a year, while the farms in New York rest in the winter.

Because it is fertilized less, organic produce grows slower, which concentrates their components when the plant matures. Now, though, plant breeders are more conscious about providing for nutritional uptake. Post-harvest handling harms nutrition; simply put, the most nutritious food is the freshest.

4. Conventional farming creates a greater carbon footrprint than commercial-scale organic farms. 

Organic growers typically make more frequent trips into the field, which uses more diesel fuel and may cause other externalities. Because they’re restricted from using certain types of pesticides, organic growers sometimes have to use more than conventional farmers to achieve the desired outcome of healthy, marketable plants.

People want near-perfect produce, and the food waste in the farming and food service industries is enormous. The biggest drawback to organic practices is food waste.

5. Organic equals small-scale.

“The increase in demand for organic has created large-scale organic agriculture operations that are entirely different than getting your food from local conventional or certified-organic farms where the farmer lives off the land,” Hepworth says. The most important decision a consumer can make is to “buy local and know your farmer.”

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