Note: Sustainable agriculture and organic agriculture are not synonymous.
Sustainable agriculture is based on environmentally sound production practices, as well as economically sustainable and socially responsible decision-making. Sustainable producers need not follow National Organic Program guidelines. The site you are currently visiting focuses on organic agriculture. For more information on sustainable agriculture, please visit Sustainable Farming on the Urban Fringe.
We, at Rutgers NJAES, support New Jersey commercial growers practicing under organic conditions through research that provides innovative solutions to problems unique to organic agriculture.
What Does it Mean to be Certified Organic?
The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) provides standards for certified organic agricultural production. Organic producers use cultural, biological, and mechanical management techniques to enhance the local ecological system. Generally, organic producers are allowed to use natural materials and are not allowed to use synthetic materials, with some exceptions. For instance, crop producers may use pheromones for insect management. (See NJAES work on mating disruption). Absolutely prohibited from organic production are synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation and crops generally referred to as genetically modified, or GMO.
If land has been managed under conventional methods, it must undergo a three-year transition period. During this time, products cannot be sold as “certified organic.” This presents a significant obstacle for growers transitioning to organic.
Organic producers must maintain excellent records to demonstrate compliance. Operations must be recertified each year. There are a number of authorized certification agencies, including the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.
Today’s food system can be confusing. Local. Sustainable. Organic. IPM. Certified Naturally Grown. There are quite a few choices, and customers are looking for information to use in decision-making.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Pesticide Control Program has developed several publications to help consumers get basic information.
- Understanding Organic (PDF)
- From Field to Fridge: Things to Consider When Making Food Choices (PDF) describes the differences between local, organic, and sustainable foods
- IPM: Integrated Pest Management (PDF) describes IPM as a pest management strategy. Many growers participate in IPM programs facilitated by Rutgers NJAES.
Rutgers NJAES has also developed a short introduction to organic agricultural practices and principles for consumers who may be interested in what happens on the farm.