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From the growing organic section in your neighborhood grocery store to the local farmers’ market, there are more organic food options than ever before. But is organic really better? Here are some of the top reasons why people choose organic, as well as a quick guide to understanding organic food labeling.

Free from Pesticides & Synthetic Fertilizers
If you’re concerned that the chemicals found in pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or herbicides will wind up in your food, you can eliminate that worry by opting for organic. Organic farmers rely on other methods to ensure the health of their crops. They rotate crops frequently, and use natural fertilizers or organic compost to improve the quality of their soil. Mechanical methods, such as tilling, mowing or mulching, are used to keep weeds at bay. Plus, a growing number of farmers are using beneficial insects or birds to help control pests.

Environmentally Beneficial
Many organic farming practices are designed to help, not hurt, the environment. Not only is your food spared exposure to chemical pesticides and fertilizers, but the land is too. Organic farming practices eliminate the risk that pesticides or synthetic fertilizers will run off into local water supplies, or harm local wildlife. strawberries

Supports Local Farmers
Most organic farms are family- or independently owned, and purchasing organic foods not only helps keep these farmers in business but also ensures continued access to nourishing and flavorful foods. Plus, when you buy locally, you’ll reduce the energy costs associated with transporting food long distances.

Understanding Organic Labeling
The United States Department of Agriculture has strict production and labeling requirements for organic products. In order to earn the right to be called organic, foods may not be produced using USDA-excluded methods (such as with pesticides or synthetic fertilizers), and must be overseen by a USDA National Organic Program certifying agent. Small-scale organic farms can be exempt from the certification process, but still must meet all USDA organic regulations for production and handling.

Here’s an overview of organic product labeling: Organic Product Labeling

To learn more about labeling requirements, visit the USDA website.