Organic: How do you define it?

Torrey Olson, the owner of a 14 acre family farm in California that produces organic pears, apples, lavender, plums, berries and other fruits. Photo by Mallika Singh

Torrey Olson, the owner of a 14-acre family farm in California that produces organic pears, apples, lavender, plums, berries and other fruits.
Photo by Mallika Singh

BERKELEY, Calif. — “Well, there’s a big difference between the agricultural definition and the political definition,” says Torrey Olson, the owner of Gabriel Farms for the past 13 years, and  “the agricultural one is what I agree with.” He believes in using naturally occurring things to care for his crops and his flowers, which is part of his definition of organic.

Olson sells various fruits, dried lavender, flowers and other miscellaneous items in his stall at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market. He considers his farm a “traditional family farm” and encourages people to come view the process of producing their fruit. “I mean, you want to look the person who grew your food in the eye, that’s the ideal,” he said. For him, the perfect definition of organic would allow the consumer to see where and by whom their food is being grown, not simply seeing a sticker that shows certification.

Expanding on what he meant by “political definition,” Olson said that, technically, “organic” simply means being certified. There are usually many guidelines and necessary processes in order to obtain this certification. The Berkeley Farmers’ Market requires its products to be 80 percent organic, with exceptions such as water and salt. As there are various ways to use the word, sometimes certain stores and products can be misleading in their labels. Certain companies that were known for their organic products have recently become owned by large corporations that don’t meet the general idea of “organic.”

Lilla Warren, who recently started working for “Blossom Bluff Orchards,” said her definition of organic is slightly different than most. “Organic means free of pesticides and growth hormones. It doesn’t necessarily have to be free of GMOs,” she said, referring to genetically modified foods. “I think there’s benefit to that, and how much it can produce. But everyone has a different opinion on it,” he added.

Alan Utterback, selling bread at his booth, described organic products as having all the nutrients still intact in the food.

Whether they agreed on what makes a product “organic,” the local farmers said they are looking to provide consumers with alternatives.