Wholesum Harvest’s Take on USDA’s Organic Hydroponic Ruling

TOV-Greenhouse-Shots-3Gtaken-3-2When the National Organic Standards Board (an advisory body to USDA that generally sets the standards for certification) ruled in November 2017 that hydroponic produce can gain the USDA organic seal, it roiled the organic growing industry.

Those on the purist side, who believe healthy soil is the core philosophy of organic growing, have long fought the ruling.

Hydroponic growers, who are just as passionate about the overall sustainability of the growing method, were thrilled. Their produce finally won approval for organic labeling consideration.


Read the full story about Wholesum Harvest, as well as other articles from American Vegetable Grower‘s April 2018 issue!

Oddly enough, the team at Wholesum Harvest was left unfazed. Wholesum Harvest was featured on the cover of American Vegetable Grower‘s April 2018 issue.

“The short and sweet answer is there has been no effect,” says Jessie Gunn, Marketing Vice President for Wholesum Harvest. “We’re a container production operation, growing certified organic produce with that methodology for more than 25 years. And we’re excited that science won out in the industrial debates and container production is still 100% certifiable organic.”

Wholesum Harvest has organic certification through Quality Assurance International, a USDA-accredited organic produce certifying agency.

“We grow nothing that isn’t organic — we’re 100% dedicated,” Gunn says.

Since Gunn sees organic production as primarily a scientific designation, she sides with those who fought for the ruling, not those who see growing in soil as indivisible from organic growing.

“I conceptualize organics as coming down to the bioactivity of the plant’s root system. And science is an immovable baseline to build one’s position on. I’ve read every line of the Organic Food Production Act (OFPA), and we follow it to a T, subscribing to its general intent of growing in a harmonious way, congruent with the needs of our planet and our environment.”

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Avatar for Sam Welsch Sam Welsch says:

OFPA contains a requirement that container growers cannot comply with:

§6513. Organic plan
(b) Crop production farm plan
(1) Soil fertility
An organic plan shall contain provisions designed to foster soil fertility, primarily through the management of the organic content of the soil through proper tillage, crop rotation, and manuring.

Since Wholesum Harvest is growing in containers and not soil, it is impossible for them to comply with this clearly worded requirement. They are only obtaining organic certification because of a political decision by the USDA to ignore this requirement.