What Organic Means To Me

Posted on Oct 20 2010 - 3:22am by Mike Lieberman

Organic. It’s a terms that’s thrown around like crazy, but what the hell does it mean? What is organic gardening? What is organic food?

There is the USDA definition of organic, which you can try to decipher and understand because it’s as useful as the last Juvenile album.

I do know what organic, living organically and gardening organically mean to me.

To me there are many things that factor into being organic. Some we have more control and access to than others.

We can’t really decide that we don’t like breathing the air around us and stop. Well we can, but would wind up dead pretty quickly. We can control the water though by filtering. See what I mean?

Neither you nor I can control all of these factors. To me it’s about doing the best that I can given the circumstances that I’m facing.

Yes, I am gardening organically, but the containers that I’m using are made from plastic. So there is the potential threat of toxins (BPAs) leaching into the soil. The water I use is filtered, but I put it into a plastic container to pour.

Let’s not even talk about the environment and air that I’m in. I live in LA, which is one of the most polluted cities in the world. I decided against living in a hamster bubble and dealing with it.

Since I’m growing in containers, I bought organic soil. How about people that grow the traditional way in the ground?

Even if they aren’t using sprays and pesticides, how organic is their soil?

From the water and environment, there are likely some toxins in the soil. For $30, you can send your soil to the Environmental Sciences Analytics Center at Brooklyn College to get your soil tested for lead and other crap.

Yes that might all sound daunting and disempowering, but it shouldn’t be. You have the power to control certain apsects. You don’t have to use toxic chemicals to spray. You don’t have to use toxic fertilizers. Worry about what you can control.

That’s what organic and organic gardening is to me. It’s anything that I am actually doing and have control over. I can’t control the air around me (yet).

What does organic mean to you?


15 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Annie October 20, 2010 at 3:04 pm -

    Brovo Mike : )

  2. anotherkindofdrew October 20, 2010 at 3:45 pm -

    To me organic is living, working, growing in a conscious state; knowing your own process and your own efforts.

  3. Mike Lieberman October 20, 2010 at 3:59 pm -

    Word. That should be your mission statement.

  4. jane October 20, 2010 at 4:31 pm -

    I think the ship has sailed on this one. There is no true organic anymore. I live on a farm and I grow “organic”. But I live 30 miles as the crow flies from a nuclear power plant, my neighbors all use GMO seed so that is blowing on to my crops, plus the ground water I water with can contain pesticides, herbicides, etc from neighbors run off. I think the best you can do is search out good safe seed, plant it, and do the best you can.

  5. Mike Lieberman October 20, 2010 at 4:35 pm -

    Sadly true. We can only do our best given our circumstances.

  6. Meemsnyc October 21, 2010 at 5:32 am -

    Organic to me, is not to use any synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Compost and only natural organic materials are the only things that go into my garden. Using natural pesticides. You’re right, there is plastic and pollution all around us and we can’t help that. However to be as eco-conscious as possible, that’s our goal.

  7. Mike Lieberman October 21, 2010 at 1:50 pm -

    Word up. Being an eco-conscious as possible. That’s what’s up.

  8. Danika @ Your Organic Life October 21, 2010 at 3:58 pm -

    I’ve been thinking about this since yesterday. I don’t think container gardening plastic containers in LA’s smog is a bad thing. I believe the plastic containers you are using are #5 plastic, which is non-leaching and have multiple purposes, so once you are done gardening w/ them you can use them for other things. So in a way, that’s greener than using plastic containers intended for plants. Also, growing plants in a place with air quality like LA helps the problem. I don’t thing you have any worries about the pollution affecting your food. I think it’s the other way around. Your plants are having a positive affect upon the smog. More people should be growing plants in urban areas, whether they are food or not. Many plants are very good at absorbing and breaking down toxins from the air. Also, by growing food at home, you aren’t contributing to the smog by getting in a car every time you need something to eat.

    To me organic is growing things the way nature intended. No synthetics of any kind, and if you’re planting in the ground, making sure you replicate the ecosystem as well as possible, not bringing in plants that aren’t intended to grow in that climate, etc.

  9. Mike Lieberman October 21, 2010 at 4:01 pm -

    Word. Very good insight and agree whole heartedly.

  10. Becky Striepe February 25, 2011 at 8:13 pm -

    This was really inspiring, Mike! It’s always nice to have a reminder that we don’t have to be perfect. Yay for people doing our best!

  11. Mike February 25, 2011 at 8:26 pm -

    Great post, Mike. I think my definition of organic would change from day to day. Sometimes I think organic means small because I think of organic farms as being smaller. In general, I’d say that’s true. I also think along the lines of clean even though that’s not always true.

  12. Mike Lieberman February 25, 2011 at 10:23 pm -

    Perfection isn’t a realistic goal to set. It’ll drive ya nuts.

  13. Carl Ann May 27, 2011 at 10:13 pm -

    Organic technically refers to building up of the soil, adding structure and texture and all things good to the soil so our kids will have good soil, which is the foundation of our life here on good ole earth. The marketing of organics has created a mindset about it, a philosophy of life, one where you can even ask the question, “What does organic mean to you?”

     As a Horticulturalist who studies and helps organic farmers, it means one thing to me, soil improvement. So I study things like how does tilling affect the soil? Can we plant directly into the cover crop, what kind of methods work best to reduce weeds, what cover crops add the most N to the soil, that sort of thing. 

    But I think your question is less scientific and more thoughtful. How do we live in a world we cannot control and not feel out of control ourselves. Or not drive ourselves crazy trying to control every aspect of it–then we surely would end up in a bubble.

    So, organic means to me, personally, not as a scientist,  that I live each day with respect and integrity toward my environment and others. I don’t put my agendas first, but respect that each person is striving to survive, same as me. I plant my garden and allow for imperfections. Chemicals are not always necessary, I can tolerate plants that aren’t perfect, as I hopefully can tolerate (and they me) people who aren’t perfect. I wake up each day and practice being grateful. I do the best I can while waiting for the rain.

  14. Mike Lieberman May 28, 2011 at 12:36 am -

    Nice Carl Ann. I like it. Very eloquently stated and well put. Words to definitely live by.

    I thought technically that organic meant something like having carbon or something like that. Appreciate your input.

  15. Tango March 15, 2014 at 3:53 pm -

    Mike, what about using the right potting soil and knowing which plant companies avoid using GMO’s to grow their plants? Can you tell me how to find this information?

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