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Organic is not always what it is supposed to be.

 
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When choosing something for my garden, I always look for organic. I look for that OMRI logo.  I felt safe, had a tool to use so to speak.  
Then I learned biosluge which is treated human waste. Even after being treated can still contain antibiotics and many other drugs. Some say some disease make it through the process.  Biosluge is allowed in organic compost.  This is very disturbing to me, but now I know to make sure and read all the ingredients on all compost and soil I buy.
I recently read about dangers with blood meal, and bone meal. I've read its possible the treatment doesn't kill mad cow disease, and other bad stuff. I know how they get blood meal, and bone meal, and I was ok with that. If I'm going to enjoy a steak, I feel better about that if all parts of the animals are used. If a life is sacrificed, honor it by letting nothing go to waist.  I don't use it, but read feather meal can contains lots of antibiotics. The list goes on.
I know you can't believe everything you read, or hear. I also know it's best to build your soil, so you don't have to use a bunch of fertilizers.  That being said I suck at making compost. I over plant veggies, herbs, and flowers, and I'm able to grow year round.  So in the spring, and fall before the next crop is planted I always add compost to kind of give the soil a boost. If I think about it I will throw in a handful of what ever I've got. That may include bone meal, blood meal, rock dust,  etc. Never a lot, and the extra not every time.
Now I don't know what to do.  Should I use the bone meal and blood meal I have? Throw it out?  I'm just kinda bummed.  "Organic" "OMRI" in my mind meant natural, safe, non harmful. That's just not true.
I'm looking forward to thoughts on this, since most of my "knowledge" has come from the internet. So it could be 100% true, or total bunk, probably some of both.  Thanks
 
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Jen Fulkerson wrote:When choosing something for my garden, I always look for organic. I look for that OMRI logo.  I felt safe, had a tool to use so to speak.  
Then I learned biosluge which is treated human waste. Even after being treated can still contain antibiotics and many other drugs. Some say some disease make it through the process.  Biosluge is allowed in organic compost.  This is very disturbing to me, but now I know to make sure and read all the ingredients on all compost and soil I buy.
I recently read about dangers with blood meal, and bone meal. I've read its possible the treatment doesn't kill mad cow disease, and other bad stuff. I know how they get blood meal, and bone meal, and I was ok with that. If I'm going to enjoy a steak, I feel better about that if all parts of the animals are used. If a life is sacrificed, honor it by letting nothing go to waist.  I don't use it, but read feather meal can contains lots of antibiotics. The list goes on.
I know you can't believe everything you read, or hear. I also know it's best to build your soil, so you don't have to use a bunch of fertilizers.  That being said I suck at making compost. I over plant veggies, herbs, and flowers, and I'm able to grow year round.  So in the spring, and fall before the next crop is planted I always add compost to kind of give the soil a boost. If I think about it I will throw in a handful of what ever I've got. That may include bone meal, blood meal, rock dust,  etc. Never a lot, and the extra not every time.
Now I don't know what to do.  Should I use the bone meal and blood meal I have? Throw it out?  I'm just kinda bummed.  "Organic" "OMRI" in my mind meant natural, safe, non harmful. That's just not true.
I'm looking forward to thoughts on this, since most of my "knowledge" has come from the internet. So it could be 100% true, or total bunk, probably some of both.  Thanks


I would make 'ending purchased nutrients' a goal.  I'm 100% on board with your analysis of the risks of packaged materials, whether labeled safe or not.  I've dropped my purchased soil amendments down to lime, gypsum, and carbon, and even carbon can get a little dicey depending on where you get it.  I get wood chips from a pallet factory.  I'd be weary of any landscaper refuse.  

Long term nutrient delivery is a function of life, carbon, and plant diversity.  Those things take time, and they should.  Focus your time on building durable soil through deep carbon banding (wood, straw, brush, grass) and then keep your soil covered and with mixed plants (warm season, cool season, grasses, broadleaves, legumes, brassicas.)   This is my test garden.  It's proven out.  It's got three wheel barrows of firewood under it in that bed.  

Now, if it stops raining, I'm going to build something 20x this size this month, and kick into production next season.  I've got mountains of brush and stumps that I'm gonna bury, and use as long term carbon and a biological hotel.  

band.PNG
[Thumbnail for band.PNG]
 
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To me, permaculture is better than organic.

So why not use permaculture to your advantage and make your own products rather than buying things that you can make?

To me, building up soil using wood chips, compost, and mushrooms is better for plants than any commercial product.

Here are some threads you or others might find interesting:

https://permies.com/t/178369/permaculturalists-fertilizer-shortage-concern

https://permies.com/t/95823/bone-meal-phosphorous-fungi

https://permies.com/t/160397/Bone-Meal

https://permies.com/t/181240/compost-tea-high-tech

Dr. Bryant Redhawk's Soil Series:

https://permies.com/wiki/redhawk-soil
 
pollinator
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I don't know that I trust the word "organic" anymore since learning that only those that have enough capital to go through the certification process can use the term when selling their produce.  The lady with the little garden down the road who's spent years building her soil probably has more more nutritious produce than the organic farm that trucks in soil and nutrients. That lady is prohibited from calling her produce organic though in my mind it is more organic than a anything grown on a certified organic farm.

Now I know it isn't feasible for many to invest years into creating or building their soil before planting, especially when rising prices and empty shelves bring about fears of food insecurity.   I found an end of season deal on some bagged organic soil last year and bought everything they had after examining the quality. I've been using it since last fall to create and fill in beds that were low on soil.  I'm mixing it with either compost or composted chicken poop and really noticing the difference when compared to some of my older beds created with whatever I could scrounge up.

Last year I thought my compost was a failure because I let some tomatoes and pumpkins dominate the pile and never once turned it. Yes, the outside edges didn't break down, but oh the middle sure did and I think it's the finest compost I've ever created.   This year I've built a bigger bin and it continually shrinks.  While that's annoying as I d ont think I'll ever get it filled, it makes me happy because I know it's working.

I honestly don’t think I'll ever be able to produce enough compost to meet my needs and so I continue to pile up branches, gather leaves, wood chips and any other natural wastes in hopes of having some additional planting areas with zero purchased inputs.  I have enough acreage to do that but the typical backyard gardener will likely have to bring it in from outside sources.  

So I guess what I'm trying  to say is that IMHO it's okay to bring in organic soil and amendments if you're comfortable with that,  but do set aside an area if space permits and build a compost pile and a lasagne or hugel bed.  Think of the bed built with outside sources the instant gratification bed and think of the lasagne and/of hugel bed as future food security. Both will likely produce nutritious food for many years given the right conditions.  
 
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I'm less concerned about contaminants and more worried about self sufficiency,  but the cure is the same either way.
Grow your own biomass and then compost it.
If possible, feed it to an animal to speed the process.
You count as an animal, so at minimum, your nitrogen need may be covered.
If you eat meat, save the bones, dry them powder them.
If you eat eggs, you can do the same with the shells.
Burn wood and collect the ash.


There are some new things I want to try:
I am aiming to grow the water fern azolla because it's nitrogen fixing and it doubles quickly.
I've started growing a dedicated strip of fast growing trees for their carbon biomass.
I met people who run an animal sanctuary and I am trying to get all of their poops.
I am growing comfrey in dedicated containers, feeding them with urine.
 
Jen Fulkerson
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Thanks everyone. Ann thank you for the great post links.  
I feel maybe I wasn't as clear as I would like.  I feel like if I need to buy something for my garden I should be able to trust Organic/OMRI as something safe to use in my garden, and that is not always the case.  Learning about the dangers of bone and blood meal upset me enough to write this post. To vent, and share in case others are blissfully unaware as I.

Next I was interested in what I should do with the bone and blood meal I have.  I won't be buying it again, but I have a couple of boxes of blood meal, and a bag of bone meal.  I hate to waist them. They are all open, and I've used them in the garden.

In an ideal world I would never buy anything for my garden. The soil would be amazing, I would make tons of super compost, collect seeds.  My polyculture and awesome garden skills would mean never having a pest problem.  It's permaculture utopia.  BUT in my reality I work full time, and have a family to care for, and a disabled husband.  I totally suck at composting. The only successful compost I can manage is the one that sits for a year, so I'm hard pressed to make even close to what I need. I buy stuff like rock dust, organic fertilizer, bone meal etc. It's possible I don't need any of the stuff I buy, my thinking was I plant more than most people in my garden and I grow year round, so I don't want to deplete the soil, and even though I'm trying to build great soil, maybe it needs a little help. Maybe not, but I figured I only add a little, and it wouldn't hurt. I do strive to grow, and live the permaculture way, but sometimes I just need a cheat.  Maybe I don't have the time, or energy, or resources. I just try to keep moving in the right direction.  

I have a hugelkultur, raised beds, hugel beet raised beds, and a food forest want to be.  I read, watch videos, search the internet, and talk to people looking to learn something new.  I enjoy learning, and sharing what I learn.  A lot of what I learn is questionable, and why I enjoy posting on Permies because I feel I get more knowledgeable accurate information.
Thanks all happy growing.
 
Anne Miller
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Jen Fulkerson wrote:Thanks everyone. Ann thank you for the great post links.  
I feel maybe I wasn't as clear as I would like.  I feel like if I need to buy something for my garden I should be able to trust Organic/OMRI as something safe to use in my garden, and that is not always the case.  Learning about the dangers of bone and blood meals upset me enough to write this post. To vent, and share in case others are blissfully unaware as I.



Jen, I understood your meaning and I feel that warning the folks on the forum that "so called" organic producuct may not be the ideal thing to use.

And I hope that the forum members will look for solutions for their gardening problems in less toxic ways. (By makingor finding simple solutions.)

Thank for the warning.
 
Michelle Heath
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Jen, I would definitely use up the amendments you already have as I feel the benefits definitely outweigh the risks in this case.

I know I may have gotten off track with my earlier post, but I really don't trust things labeled "organic" much anymore.  Yes, if that's your only choice to grow food, then by all means go for it.  Otherwise try to do as William suggests and produce as much biomass as possible.  

I've given up on quick composting as honestly I don't have the time to constantly turn it. I may turn once and then let it go for a year.  My newest bin is approximately 5'x5' because that's the size of the materials I had and in my mind that will be so much better than the 4'x4' pile I had previously.

Though I work at home, my time is definitely limited and I do try to spend as many daylight hours outside as possible.   Unfortunately between my husband and daughter we've had four surgeries in the past year and another one coming up.  In my daughter's case it's just a day or two afterwards keeping her comfortable and happy, but in my husband's case it's a matter of all of the outside chores falling to me until he recuperates.  Then there's the 2-hour drive one-way to see specialists and for pre-op appointments, so I definitely understand not having as much time and moreso not having the energy.

So do what you can and celebrate your successes.  Analyze your failures and try again,  but don't beat yourself up over them.  Growing our own food and preparing future growing areas is supposed to be rewarding (though it doesn't always feel that way), not a burden.
 
pollinator
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Hi, Jen.
Maybe a simpler composting method would do?

I think the easiest one is to bury scraps in small holes, like 1 feet deep, throw a few seeds over it once it is filled and forget about it. Maybe mark the holes with a small stick so you don't dig again the same hole in the same year.
It's not a compost you can apply over your beds, but it helps the soil around it.
 
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Yeah,   I buy organic seeds for my garden, and really not much else gets purchased to come into the property.    I did buy some marigolds but everything else was grown,  foraged, or salvaged.   Grass clippings, compost, leaf mold,  food scraps, urine,  rabbit manure (my own)  etc.  

This year was my first year setting a goal of 1) all food etc. grown from SEED,  and 2)  No purchased produce/fruit/veg since March1st.    In an effort to "clean" up my food supply.  

I'm still buying meats and fats.  
 
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Jen, if it were me I'd use it up and then do better next time.
the first time I learned about prions it scared the heck out of me and I found myself thinking about it all the time. it's probably better not to go down that rabbit hole. I don't think there's much data on this sort of thing but personally I definitely remember reading about people getting mad cow from jello, pricking themselves in the lab, and tissue/bone transplant, but I don't remember reading that anyone got it from putting bone meal on their garden. (how's that for totally non scientific)

In the meantime, there's a good saying that I think applies here: don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Use what you got, move on, learn, improve, onward and upward. I also love trench composting (if it works in your setting) and have challenges with the "usual" compost (maybe our moisture cycle is what fails me). Maybe worm box, bokashi bucket, or just keyhole garden/trench might work better for you. You got this (and considering what many people put on their garden, you are already WAY ahead of the game).
 
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I'm with Tereza there: you do your best with your resources and context, and sprinkle a bit of denial on what you cannot change

For instance, we know that breastfeeding transfers some toxic stuff stored in fat cells from mom to baby. But it's still considered safer to breastfeed than not to breastfeed. A mother can reduce her exposure to toxic stuff as much as possible in her child-rearing years and get rid of obvious contaminants (like second-hand smoke exposure, use of pesticides or unsafe work practices), but angst about this possible "generational contamination" is unhelpful. For most of humanity's history, we've been muddling along in fairly unsanitary and often very toxic environments (industrial processes in the Middle Ages were awful), and humanity still survives...

Similarly, having lived in France during the mad-cow years, I could be unknowingly carrying prions myself. I've spent 25 years with that knowledge, and apart from a tiny "what if" hint of dread once in a while, there's not much I can do about it. However, I can ask questions about animal production TODAY, build a relationship with the people who grow the food I eat, and hope that we will not repeat the errors of the past.

Same thing with soil: I know my soil has less-than-ideal traces of lead and arsenic, which is pretty much standard for post-war lots in my area. Nothing considered unsafe by government standards, but more than I'd like. But all I can do at this point is say "the buck stops here. From now on, I'll be a good stewart of this plot of land, make prudent decisions about what goes in the ground, and do my best with the knowledge I have to repair the damage. But there's no going back to pristine soil untouched by human hands. "

 
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I agree about not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. I would definitely go ahead and use up those amendments. I would consider any contamination to be extremely low-risk.

When I am trying to figure out whether to use something, I always ask myself what my options are. I consider most off-site amendments to be somewhat questionable, but since I am just starting out on a new property, and don't have systems in place, it's either use off-site amendments to get started, or grow little to no food while those systems get established. Which means eating way more purchased food in the meantime. With the things I tend to bring in (autumn leaves, purchased compost from a big composting facility, composted cow manure, and occasionally some "organic" bagged granular fertilizer) I am still doing WAY better than most commercial farms, including certified organic ones. Not to mention, of course, the high monetary cost of that food. So I choose to grow as much food as possible, doing the best I can with what I have, and working towards the goal of having systems in place where I don't have to bring those things in. It takes time and organization though, and in the meantime I have a family to feed.

I brought in pick-up load after pick-up load of purchased compost this year amend my sandy soil to make a big veggie garden this year. There's no way I could have grown a garden in the soil I had, and I didn't have time to amend it with cover crops. As the plants were growing, I noticed some were showing signs of nutrient deficiency, especially nitrogen deficiency. Rather than just let them die or not produce, and be forced to buy so-called-organic produce at the store, I bought some Jobe's "organic" fertilizer and applied it. It greened everything right up and they started producing. Next year I will have more compost, and I am also building some hugels and lasagna beds, so in the future I may not have to bring in amendments, but for this year I am fine with the choices I made and feel it is still a million times better than buying all of that produce at the store.

I'm working towards "perfect" but on the way there, I am just trying to do better every year.
 
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Seems to me if you eat purchased meat that you'd be OK with bone meal.
 
Jen Fulkerson
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Thank you all.  I do try to do my best to grow the most healthy food I can.  The only way I could ever even approach perfect  is to move, and that's not going to happen.  We own our home (will be 100% ours in a couple years).   It's .99 of an acre surrounded on 3 sides by orchard. Almond on the north side, and walnut on the south and east side.  I'm sad to say both farmers spray stuff on there trees that require the person doing it to where a hazmat suit and respirator.  There's no way we don't get over spray.  I hate seeing them out there, but it's not something I can do anything about.  I always just hope the wind is blowing the other way, and keep doing the best I can.

I do have a worm bin. I have a large garbage can I drilled a bunch of holes in, and that is the compost bin that works for me. I know it's not going to heat up so I don't put weeds in it.  We just fill it with food scraps, cardboard and wood chips.  It doesn't produce much, but better than nothing.  When I tried large compost piles they would never get hot enough.  I think it is just to dry, and I'm to lazy to turn it often enough.  I decided to put it in the chicken yard, which they love, but I could never get enough volume because they eat it all. So that didn't work.  

I will use the organic amendments I have. Like most of us on Permies I strive to build healthy soil, and not have to buy "stuff" for my garden, but if I need to for some reason, I will be doing so with a lot more care. I will no longer see " organic" or "OMRI" as a safety net.  Thanks
 
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I don't know that I trust the word "organic" anymore since learning that only those that have enough capital to go through the certification process can use the term when selling their produce.  The lady with the little garden down the road who's spent years building her soil probably has more more nutritious produce than the organic farm that trucks in soil and nutrients. That lady is prohibited from calling her produce organic though in my mind it is more organic than a anything grown on a certified organic farm.



One point of clarification, regarding our little old lady friend down the road, who may be short on financial capital, but rich in living capital in the form of healthy soil:

If she is selling less than $5000 in annual gross sales of organic products, she is currently exempt from the certification process, and she has the right to market it as "organic" on her little roadside food stand or what have she.  There are some bureaucratic responsibilities and caveats involved, too (see attachment below).

Links:
  • All about the NOP.
  • Code of Federal Regulations:§ 205.101 Exemptions and exclusions from certification.
  • Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.

  • As far as trustworthiness goes, it warrants the due respect or cautious suspicion afforded to any bureaucratic regulatory system
    Filename: OrganicCertificationExemption.pdf
    Description: USDA exemptions gouge sheet as of 2022
    File size: 169 Kbytes
     
    John Indaburgh
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    George I looked at your links and want to comment on this piece:

    "Records to be maintained by exempt operations.

    (1) Any handling operation exempt from certification pursuant to paragraph (a)(3) or (a)(4) of this section must maintain records sufficient to:

    (i) Prove that ingredients identified as organic were organically produced and handled; and

    (ii) Verify quantities produced from such ingredients.

    (2) Records must be maintained for no less than 3 years beyond their creation and the operations must allow representatives of the Secretary and the applicable State organic programs' governing State official access to these records for inspection and copying during normal business hours to determine compliance with the applicable regulations set forth in this part. "

    Assuming I sell less than $5.000 a year and truly grow organically what receipts would I have. If I raise some animals and use their manure as my soil amendment AND my fertilizer where do I get the receipts to prove that my animals defecated and I spread it on my fields. Suppose I don't raise animals and get my manure from a neighbor for free; where do I get the receipts to prove what I didn't spend.

    Who writes this legislation. How can you live in a row house in Georgetown and write agriculture related legislation/regulations.
     
    George Yacus
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    John Indaburgh wrote:Assuming I sell less than $5.000 a year and truly grow organically what receipts would I have. If I raise some animals and use their manure as my soil amendment AND my fertilizer where do I get the receipts to prove that my animals defecated and I spread it on my fields. Suppose I don't raise animals and get my manure from a neighbor for free; where do I get the receipts to prove what I didn't spend.


    Notice it says "record" and not "receipts".  So please don't go looking for a receipt-dispenser on the back end of ol' Bessy the cow, or worse, Bruno the bull, haha!  But even so, if you read the code or that gouge sheet, you'll notice that the record keeping requirement is not pursuant to the <$5000 organic crowd in (a)(1), but rather to folks in the (a)(3) or (a)(4) exemption groups.  That's outlined in the CFR here, and in the gouge-sheet at the end of page two:

    USDA, NOP, Agricultural Marketing Service gouge sheet wrote:What are the recordkeeping requirements for exempt farmers and business
    owners have less than $5,000 in gross annual sales of organic products?

    7 CFR 205.101
    There are no recordkeeping requirements for farms and businesses that are claiming that they
    are exempt because they have less than $5,000 in gross annual sales of organic products. There
    are recordkeeping requirements for other exemptions but not for this one.
    It is still recommended that exempt operations maintain as many records as they can in case they are questioned about qualifying for the exemption.

    It is also recommended that farms and businesses that are exempt because they have less than
    $5,000 in gross annual sales of organic products also maintain financial records in case a
    question arises about qualifying for the exemption.



    John Indaburgh wrote:Who writes this legislation. How can you live in a row house in Georgetown and write agriculture related legislation/regulations.


    I know it was tongue in cheek, but I'm going to nerd out with a quick civics blurb, simply because I love America!

  • US Constitution --> Mostly written by the founding father, James Madison; then...
  • Congress invoked Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the Constitution, specifically their enumerated power to regulate commerce among the States; then...
  • They wrote the legislation of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, nestled within Title 21 of the 1990 Farm Bill, calling for creation of the "National Organic Program"; then...
  • Hand off to the Executive branch for execution...
  • Trickles down to the civil servants within USDA, who run the program, write the regulations, etc.


  • Meanwhile:
    -All the original legislation gets neatly organized into the US Code;
    -All the bureaucratic regulations get neatly organized into the ever evolving eCFR.

    I love America, because just about anyone can not only learn the rules, but they can grow to a position to be able to change the rules, too.  Happy belated 4th of July, everybody!

    P.s. www.usajobs.gov might get you into the USDA, but good luck finding a place in Georgetown!
     
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    I remember, when I was young, my dad purchased the Rodale's Organic composting/gardening book; and he followed the advice in that book, and taught us on what to do, and  he had some of the best producing beds of veggies I ever saw.  I was successful  in my own endeavors in  following those guidelines, and so was my brother.

    Enter in life happening, and  gardening was put on a back burner.

    Enter the government announcing it was putting out guidelines for farmers for organic gardening.  I thought " Oh, wow; they are finally going to  get the foundation set up for cattle farms, dairy farms, hog farms, to  break down the  animal waste  in beds and then  have the  corn growers, wheat, etc, put their waste into bins to start it to break down, and so on down the line, so that when it all gets trucked to the mixing plant, it all gets mixed and then the consumer can then purchase the composted end result.

    Yeah, thats the Utopian dream of the gardener/producer.

    I was raised to the concept of tilling in cover crops, composting, having a 3 bin composting set up, etc, etc, etc... so I was excited to see how it would work on a larger scale within the AG industry.

    I forgot that  that 'industry' is the stand out term here.

    When those guidelines came out, I just about threw the computer screen across the room, if I had had the document in hand, I would have BURNED it. GREENWASHING so bad, its disgusting.   It was abundantly clear that the way it is set up, is to profit the big  AG companies, they use chemicals in fertilizing and pest control where there were home made pest controls and the compost WAS the fertilizer in the organic  gardening methods we used, because the whole idea was to not use the mass-made AG chemicals in the old true compost gardening. So, yeah, the 'organic gardening' terminology  was done to put a sticker onto an end product that only is a value added thing, and to raise the prices due to it being 'organic, and that's an add-able value' designation' within the AG  community that only serves big AG  as they then get to sell more chemicals.

    I do know they teach composting in some schools,  and thats a good thing; maybe someday, those kids will build a organic composting  co-op like I envisioned....
     
    pollinator
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    Bill Mullison I believe said once  "The only way you know it is organic is if you grow it yourself"....


    I would like transparency in growing and the food I eat, but it is too profitable to lie.


    Even now the gov has given lee way for ingredients they do not have to list what is on label.


    They do not have to tell the country of origin.






     
    Mart Hale
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    The best progress I have done is to use wood chips that I decompose as they are not sprayed.

    Then, I mix in like sea salt or cover crops I grow on my own property.


    With the advent of pesticides/herbicides that last many years ( depending on heat and PH of the soil ).

    This is why I do not accept free horse manure / hay, as they can be pesticide layden.


    You do the best you can, there is only so much we can do not being millionaires.
     
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