In the Farm

Organic or Non-organic?

Bowery Farming March 3, 2022

Organic or not organic? In the store aisles, in our DMs, we get asked this a lot, “Is Bowery Farming organic?” The answer is complicated. 

What does organic mean?

Great question! Walking the aisles of the supermarket, one can see “organic” quite a bit. But what does it really mean? The USDA defines organic food as:

“Foods that are grown and processed according to federal guidelines addressing, among many factors, soil quality, animal raising practices, pest and weed control, and use of additives. Organic producers rely on natural substances and physical, mechanical, or biologically based farming methods to the fullest extent possible.”

There’s a lot of criteria to be met to become certified organic, and many steps that farms need to take to ensure that they meet the standards stipulated by the USDA.

How do produce growers receive organic certification?

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According to the USDA, “Produce can be called organic if it’s certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest.”

For farmers looking to achieve organic certification, they must go through an extensive and dedicated process to transition their soil away from synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemical additives (the full list of which can be found here). Note that certified organic does not mean pesticide-free. Organic farms can still use pesticides, but they are organic pesticides.

Organic vs Non-Organic: It’s Not Always Black and White

For many years as an indoor hydroponic grower, Bowery was not allowed to apply for organic certification. Now, according to a U.S. District Court in San Francisco we could be. So, should we be organic? Maybe that’s the better question.

Bowery Farming Vertical Farm ImageWhen this March 2021 ruling opened up the possibility of organic certification, our company’s original sticking point remained: soil. We don’t grow in soil. We grow indoors, hydroponically, without applying pesticides to our plants. 

Therefore, at this time, alongside fellow indoor growers, we feel that we’re trailblazing a new fresh food movement, one that’s creating a new gold standard in safety and quality of produce. At Bowery, we call this new standard Protected Produce..

What is Protected Produce?

Protected Produce is a set of standards we’ve defined over time, beginning with our first farm and our first seed in Kearny, NJ. These include:

  • Safety-First: Our controlled indoor environment enables us to grow without applying pesticides to our plants, using filtered water in a closed loop system that’s not contaminated.
  • Transparent & Traceable: From the moment a seed is planted at one of our farms it is tediously tracked and monitored. We have eyes on our greens every second of every day, making sure they get exactly what they need, when they need it. It also means we eliminate stress typically associated with outdoor grown produce, and without stress, there is no need to interfere with protective measures that could be harmful to people or the planet.
  • Flavor: Why grow the industry’s safest greens if they taste like everyone else’s? Our thoughts exactly. We think the way we grow food—optimal conditions, attention to detail, carefully selected seeds—results in the purest tasting food possible

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How are indoor farms working together to create a safer food system?

Bowery is also a founding member of the CEA Food Safety Coalition, an organization of indoor growers who subject their production processes to external audits to mitigate against foodborne illness. Since traditional means of accreditation were created before the advent of modern indoor farming technology, the Coalition was established to develop safety standards tailored to our business.

As the indoor farming industry continues to grow and as we expand our operations, there will undoubtedly be tensions between older ways of signaling quality (i.e., “organic”) and new ways of growing food. 

We encourage everyone to do their research and find the option that suits them best. As you compare and contrast different options we hope that you’ll consider indoor growers in addition to the farmers and producers you’ve grown used to. 

Have you tried Bowery’s Protected Produce?

If you live within local proximity to one of our farms, find Bowery produce near you today and let us know what you think.