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Organics Information for Consumers

Organic FAQs

Where can I find locally produced organic foods?

The easiest was to find organic produce in Tennessee is through a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) or farmers market. You can find local farmers markets & CSAs on the Pick Tennessee Products web site. You can also contact the producers directly to see what they offer, & where you can buy their products. Tennessee organic products can also be found in various health food stores, groceries, & specialty stores across the state.

How do I know if produce is organic?

Organic producers go through an intensive process to USDA certified organic. Certified organic producers will usually have a copy of their certification on hand or will display the USDA organic logo. "Certified Organic" means crops have been grown from soil that was not treated with pesticides, growth regulators, synthetic chemicals, or artificial fertilizers in the 36 months prior to certification. Certification includes yearly inspections of farm fields & processing facilities, & detailed record keeping to ensure that growers, processors, & handlers are meeting the National Organic Program Standards.

Is local organic food as expensive as the organic produce in the grocery store?

In almost all cases, no! Organic products sold directly by farmers locally are usually cheaper. This is due to the fact that there is not a middleman in the supply chain. The producer is the retailer, so there is not a markup like in grocery stores. The producer is the retailer, so there is not a markup like in grocery stores. The produce is also not shipped over long distances, cutting out transportation costs that are incorporated into the price you pay at supermarkets.

Is organic food better for you?

There is no conclusive evidence at this time to suggest that organically produced foods are more nutritious. However, well-balanced soils grow strong healthy plants which, many believe taste better & contain more nutrients. Many restaurants' chefs around the state, as well as around the country are using organic produce because they think it tastes better. Organic growers often select varieties to grow for their flavor, not only their appearance.

Are there producer & consumer groups that I might get involved with to learn more about organic & locally produced foods?

Yes! There are several educational & social organizations across the state & southeast. Organizations that may peak your interest are: Tennessee Organic Growers Association (TOGA), Slow Food USA, Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG), Buy Fresh Buy Local, Food Security Partners of Middle Tennessee, & several others.

How much does USDA organic certification cost?

Annual certification fees vary for producers & handlers. Sometimes less than $500, sometimes up to $1,500. Fees are listed on certifier's web sites. The fee for certification is not required at the time of application. Applicants will be billed upon completion & approval of application & inspections.

Is there a farm size for organic certification?

No. Any organic farm can become certified, regardless of its size. May be less than 1 acre or 1000 acres or more.

Organic food differs from conventionally produced food in the way it is grown, handled, and processed. Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides, fertilizers, bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled "organic," a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Look for the USDA organic seal to ensure the produce you buy is organic.

For more information about Organics, contact:

TN Dept of Agriculture
Greer Gill
P.O. Box 40627
Nashville, TN 37204
Phone: (615) 837-5163
Fax: (615) 837-5194

Pick Tennessee Products is presented by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Market Development Division.
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