Why is organic so expensive?

Many individuals would choose organic if they could.  But this isn’t often feasible for those with lower incomes, school debt, or other financial issues, especially during times of economic downturn.  And those individuals frequently question why organic is more expensive, sometimes thinking that organic growers can simply get away with charging more.  This really is not the case.  There are many reasons for the price differential including pest and weed control, and growing methods.

While most commercial farms using petroleum based pesticides and herbicides that leach into ground water, remain in the plants, and create both super-weeds and super-bugs, organic producers stick to more time consuming, but much healthier means.  Spraying crops a few times is very simple and can be done using large machinery operated by a single individual.  This allows for instantaneous results and nearly guaranteeing that the plants will have no barriers to growing as large as possible.  Organic growers have a much different set of weapons for combatting pests and weeds amongst their crops.

Organic growers often rely more heavily upon man power than machinery and chemicals. Destroying eggs of pests manually, by squishing them, is a method of preventing hatching.    The adults and larvae can also be removed from the plants and squished or drowned in a soap and water mixture.  Other methods kill or simply deter the pests.  Diatomaceous Earth, which is essentially crushed crustaceans, stops pests in their tracks and can kill a number of them by creating microscopic cuts in their exoskeleton or drying out their mucus membranes, as in the case of slugs.  Many plants also deter various pests such as garlic and hot peppers and a number of herbs, which can be ground up and put into a spray bottle or simply grown near or around the crops.

There are fewer ways to deal with weeds, but these methods can also be time consuming. Prevention is an easier tactic that can be achieved by mulching or laying down cardboard or newspaper.  Mulch can be any smothering-type substance.  While plastic can be an organic tactic, it does not help to improve the soil over time like natural mulch.  Organic mulch cannot have chemicals in it, so commercially available mulch would not be used.  However, things such as leaves, straw, or grass are good choices that feed the plants, keep down weeds, and improve the soil over time.  Once the plants are growing, they can still be smothered, but other tactics may be put into action depending upon their location.  Boiling water and vinegar can both be used to kill weeds if they aren’t near crops.  But pulling them out, roots and all, is a sure method and then they can also go into the compost bin.

Finally, for fertilizer, rather than the blue crystals known to many, organic growers will use a number of seemingly random items.  Kitchen scraps make for great plant food.  Items such as coffee grounds, egg shells, and fish bones are great alternatives to chemical fertilizers and enable less waste to go into landfills.  Composted vegetables and plant-derived materials takes some time to make, but permanently improves the soil and provides long lasting nutrients for the plants.  Various types of animal waste is also a wonderful method a number of organic growers may use.  Nevertheless, spreading composted materials and using kitchen scraps takes much more time than watering plants every few weeks with blue crystals.

While buying organic does cost more, it may improve your life in the long run and will surely improve the lives of you children and grandchildren as we improve the soil and use less harmful chemicals.  When it seems like an organic grower is trying to scam you, just remember the amount of time and effort that went into producing that vegetable was much greater than that of a commercial grower who sprayed down his crops a few times and poisoned your drinking water.  Also, now that you know what methods go into growing organic produce, you can put some of them into action in your own garden!


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