Organically-Grown: Is It Worth The Price You Pay? An Interview With An Organic Farm Manager

By Catherine J. Frompovich

Has the ante just been upped on organically-grown food?  Why would I ask such a ‘silly’ question, you may be wondering? Well, Jeff Bezos, the owner of The Washington Post, and a host of other entrepreneurial endeavors just bought the natural foods grocery store chain Whole Foods for close to $14 Billion!

Even though Whole Foods, in my opinion, has not been a pristine purveyor of what I’d call non-GMO and chemically-free foods, as I and others would have liked, it did a respectable job considering all things involved while also making a handsome bottom line for itself over the years, but now finds itself losing ground to the organically-grown foods revolution taking place and which Amazon obviously wants to become a key player and corner a large segment of that lucrative market.  Consumers have become food conscious and want safe, clean and better tasting food!

However, as a Whole Foods customer, who used to purchase my groceries during the 1980s in the grocery chain WF bought out, Fresh Fields, I’d like to offer my thoughts and some unsolicited advice to Mr. Bezos and his entourage of foodies, who will be running the show in the Amazon version of Whole Foods, if Mr. Bezos elects to keep the brand name.

First and foremost, please do a better job of making certain the current GMO-free, organically-grown brands of all food stocks customers rely upon at Whole Foods are continued and stock shelves, freezers, cold cases and produce isles.  If that does not happen, I can assure you, you will find you may have bought a ‘pig-in-a-poke’, as loyal customers will flee to Giant, Trader Joe’s, The Fresh Market, Wegmans, co-ops and other independent markets selling certified organically-grown, verified Non-GMO Project foods.

There’s talk Mr. Bezos is more than friendly with Bill Gates, who apparently believes in better living through genetic modification of just about everything.  Will their association carry over to marketing strategies for Mr. Bezos?  I hope not!  Consumers will become wary of what’s being sold in the newly acquired Whole Foods, if Mr. Bezos does not make a public commitment to organically-grown, non-GMO food.  Mr. Gates’ Foundation’s $23-Million investment in Monsanto shouldn’t be buoyed up by Whole Foods selling GMO ‘phood’ or Roundup® contaminated grains, processed foods, or fresh produce.  Organically-grown foods are an agricultural and culinary treasure, which should not and cannot be contaminated; ‘watered down’ with the addition of GRAS chemicals; or any other newfangled merchandising approach.

Why do I make such remarks?  Well, I’ve interviewed a former manager of an organic farm in California who would like to tell you some of the ins and outs of organic farming from her viewpoint of having “been there, done that,” and why organic food deserves to become the staple and mainstay of agriculture globally.

I interviewed Kristi Nicole Lopez, who recently moved from California to Pennsylvania and now works for Whole Foods in the produce department.

Kristi, I understand you worked on organic farms in California.

I worked on one organic farm that was certified through CCOF for both agriculture and livestock. I was the farm manager and coordinator.

How long were you involved in such work and in what capacities?

I started working with only the agriculture portion of the farm in 2011. At the time, I was maintaining and harvesting two acres of various vegetables, as well as keeping the necessary logs for organic certification. In 2012 I became the garden coordinator and planned with our restaurant chef what to grow for the following year, acquire appropriate seed, plant, sustain and harvest when ready. I did this along with writing the curriculum for our children’s farm camp program and teaching the camp from 2012-2015. In 2015 our farm manager changed careers and I was able to fill his position. This led me to be responsible for the herb farm (20 acres of lavender, rosemary, and tea tree), olive trees, olive oil and essential oil production and storage, as well as over 200 head of livestock. The entire operation was certified organic, even the land not being used for active farming.

If you want to ensure your entire property is certified, you may choose to pay for acreage to be listed as “wild crops”, which we opted to do for the 2300 acres of land the farm resided on.

What type of background or education did you have that allowed you to work an organic farm?

I started hobby gardening at age 16 as a remedy for my first broken heart. Later, I ended up at Temple University majoring in Biology, and then switching to Horticulture for the last two years of my schooling. The farm position I acquired was not intentional. I had applied for a job working the front desk of the farm’s historic resort and was asked to take over the farm a few months later after the resort president found out my background. Most of what I had learned in school was not helpful on the job. I learned the most from talking with other local farmers about what worked for them and utilizing a little creative trial and error.

Once I took over the livestock portion, I was slightly terrified. I had been working around the livestock for years doing the farm camp program, but I wasn’t responsible for their lives. I bought several books about each of the different animals the farm had and read them all at once. Then I called other farms whenever I had a question that the books didn’t answer. YouTube videos sitting out in the middle of the pasture taught me how to assist an ewe with a difficult birth, and when to intervene versus letting nature take its course. I used to laugh often, calling myself the 15 day farmer. That was how many days of training I had before the old manager left and I took over.

Since California probably was one of the first agricultural states to understand the value of organic farming, why do you think it took so long to “catch on”?

If I understand this question correctly, it’s an issue with educating the public. I think people don’t understand why organic foods cost more. Groceries are a huge portion of a family budget and if the importance of organic farming and consumption is not understood, then no one is going to pay the higher price tag. I think, unfortunately, most of us don’t consider organic to be of importance until we are faced with a health problem or a loved one is ill and we are forced in that direction. This was certainly true for me. I didn’t fully get it until my son was diagnosed with autism and I began to look a bit deeper.

I understand to get a farm certified as “organic” much time and labor is involved.  Can you please explain what would be a normal time frame from start to completion of the organic certification process?

The last I knew, it took 3 years. You have to be actively paying for inspections and doing all of the right things for three years before you are able to legally label your products as organic. Until then, you are considered a transition farm. This is for produce only.

Livestock, once given ANY non-approved substance, be it an antibiotic, pain reliever, food supplement, etc. can never become organic. If you have a farm with a herd of non-organic female livestock, once switched to a certified organic life, livestock can give birth to certified organic offspring upon the second generation after their lifestyle change. It’s hard for me to explain, so I hope it makes sense. The mother, in the case of our first ewes we ever had, were not raised organic from birth so they can never be certified organic, however, because we fed them organic feed, and withheld vaccines and non-approved medications, once they had their second lamb after we had changed their diet to organic, the second lambing and any subsequent births would be able to be certified organic livestock. The time frame for certifying a livestock operation is highly variable because it becomes pretty complex since it depends entirely on whether or not your starting “crop” of livestock is certified organic or not.

The Farming Costs Involved in Growing Organic Food

Is there a fee or cost involved for that certification process, and how much is it?

Is there a yearly ‘license-type’ fee the farms must pay to keep their organic certification?

There are a lot of fees involved in organic farming and that is one of the reasons it costs more for the consumer. Not only are losses higher in many cases because only natural pesticides are available and sometimes at a very high cost, but maintaining certification is difficult. It is labor intensive with logs and paperwork. The inspection is billed by time required to complete, so if you are very involved, have a large property, or didn’t organize your paperwork and logs well, it all costs you. For our 2,300 acres it was usually $5,000 to $7,000 for just the inspection. We also had to pay fees any time we needed to submit a new product label for approval plus pay a yearly fee for the certificate we had that said we are organic. In addition to paying for certification, we also have to pay the USDA to use the USDA organic logo, and this varies depending on the number of times you use the logo. Additionally, since we had chickens we collected eggs from, we had to report how many eggs we collected in a year and pay a fee for that as well. With the USDA logo, they are very specific about its use and how it is displayed on a label. Often we had spools of labels that we had to throw away and get reprinted because the requirements for label placement changed and we had to order new ones to stay within guidelines.

When starting out with a brand new farm, I am unsure if the fees are extensive during the transition phase. A phone call to CCOF may answer that question. They have always been friendly with me.

A farm has to become certified organic through a third party like CCOF or Oregon Tilth. Once the farm goes through the required three years as a transition farm, they may begin selling produce with the certified by label and also apply for use of the USDA organic label (this I think is required, but I am unsure because our controller handled the USDA payments). All soil amendments used on the certified area of the property have to be approved for organic use and listed as approved or the farm can request approval of an unapproved substance for a specific use. The requests can be approved or denied and it takes about a month unless the farm pays a fee to expedite the decision. We had to do this once to get an herbal mixture approved for sheep that were ill with a heavy parasite load.  It’s a few hundred dollars for each item you expedite approval of.  Farms are inspected once per year with CCOF. The inspector schedules an appointment and then shows up expecting a detailed tour of the farm including all buildings and storage areas. They ask a lot of questions and then sit down to go over the folders of documentation farms have to keep and discuss your plans for the future. Any changes you’d like to make for the following year have to be pre-approved. Once the inspection is over, you have 30 days to correct any errors found and then you receive your bill. The inspection is billed by the hour and the certificate also has a separate fee. I am sure the price varies tremendously, but for our farm it was close to $8,000 in total for the 2016 certification. We were considered a small farm.

Did the organic farm you worked bring in outside bees to pollinate crops?  If so, can you tell me how that works?

We did not bring in outside bees because the practice of beekeeping is popular in the area already and it wasn’t necessary. We have a few honey companies and several orange groves nearby that attracted them. Because the farm grew 20 acres of lavender, several beekeepers kept their hives on our property by request to have them produce lavender honey. True lavender honey is light and very sweet, quite a delicacy.

Out of care for the preservation of bees, we also had a few hives of our own that our company president learned how to keep naturally. We used the hives to talk to kids in our farm camp program about the importance of bees to our food crops and why they are declining.

Pest Management

Can you please explain how pest management works on an organic farm?

There is the typical approach, which is planting mono crops and spraying approved pesticides as needed.

IPM or integrated pest management, which involves things like utilizing a pest’s natural predators, nematodes added to soil to control soil dwelling pests, and co-planting crops that benefit one another or ward off insects.

Then there is biodynamic farming, which I honestly don’t understand entirely and maybe it’s what we were already doing, but didn’t use the term.

Lastly there is the option of hydroponic farming, which is quickly growing in popularity. In hydroponics, the startup costs are a dead end for most. They can run into a million dollars for a large system, but the crop loss is minimal, nutrient control can be perfected, hydroponics can be employed almost anywhere, not just farmland, and when done right, everything grows quickly and is nearly pest and disease free. Nothing is perfect, but hydroponics is a great way to go for farms with unique or challenging needs and locations.

The “Certified” Classification

How much of a farm has to be set aside as organic in order to get the certification?

The entire property does not need to be certified. The farm I worked with chose to pay for the entire property to be certified organic because of personal convictions, but only the growing area and a buffer zone need to be certified from what I understand.

Do you think many farms use organic growing methods but do not apply for certification because of the costs involved?

I do. I have met quite a few farms who claim “no chemicals used” or “natural” which are unregulated terms that can easily be abused. For myself and my family, if you talk to the actual farmer, not just a middle person and they seem like they honestly have the same beliefs about the importance of organic, they are usually being honest. Most farms feel pressured to apply for certification because we have a doubting public and if the label isn’t on the produce, people question. I can’t blame the public though; we have plenty of reason to be nervous.

If that be the case as mentioned above, then how could farms classify their produce?

I’ve seen farmers’ signs with “no chemicals used,” “locally grown,”  “biologically grown”.

Locally grown doesn’t mean much for chemical use, it just means less environmental pollution was produced in its transport and it’s probably a little bit fresher than grocery store produce. A farm saying “No chemicals” is fine, as long as the farmer understands what that means and also doesn’t use chemical fertilizers. It’s important to ask questions. I am not a big fan of using the term biologically grown. I think it’s confusing and there is still plenty of room for contamination. Is the farm in a place where soil may be polluted? Is the water filtered? Our public water supply is full of chemicals, trace amounts of medications, and hormones. There are also no regulations on what can be put into organic compost—anything goes as long as the pile reaches proper temperature. Even non-organic manure, produce and yard scraps can go into an organic compost pile. It’s an unfortunate loophole and majorly misunderstood that composting doesn’t get rid of the contamination from chemicals previously used. So once again, I say ask a few questions.

Are there any dangerous aspects to organic farming?  If so, what are they?

It’s a dangerous financial gamble.

Otherwise, some of the pesticides, though naturally based, could still harm you over time or if handled without gloves. With the livestock, there are some issues. Livestock are susceptible to worms because they eat off the ground, obviously deworming agents cannot be used so there is a danger involved as far as human health. The danger is not to the consumer, just those around the farm. Additionally, many of the parasites animals can have are not transmittable to humans. I don’t honestly think that a non-organic farm would be any safer.

Do you know how organic farming crop yields compare with conventional farming, especially from your experience with the farm crops you were involved with in growing?

Yield depends entirely on what the farm is growing and whether or not it is suited to the environment it’s growing in. For example, growing lettuce in southern California means a very short season in late winter, whereas a farm in the northeast could grow lettuce for a much longer period. However, because of the limitations on strong pest control, studies, as well as my own experience indicate that organic farms have a much higher crop loss. At times, up to one-third of the crop may be lost to pests or disease.

With livestock there are also additional losses for similar reasons. When an animal falls ill or has, say complications from giving birth, antibiotics cannot be given unless the animal is removed from the farm or the farm is operating both conventional and organic separately, and the animal can be transferred to the conventional farm. Unfortunately, aside from attempting natural treatments and/or only administering pain killers (aspirin is organically legal to administer), the decision to euthanize the animal more often has to be made. Even though I wholeheartedly support organic, there were times I felt that organic raising of livestock was inhumane for the very reason that we had very few options when they fell ill.

Organic Food Prices

Why is organic produce priced differently, or higher, than conventionally-grown produce?

I think there is a misconception that organic farms charge more just because they can or because organic is hip, but that is not at all the case. As I mentioned previously, organic farms can experience up to a one-third crop loss any given year and that is considered normal, and organic farms are expected to plan for this in their finances. The natural herbicides and pesticides that are approved for use are largely patented and very expensive compared to conventional controls. When it comes to fertilization and replacing soil nutrients, compost is encouraged, but space, labor costs and base supplies for compost enough to fertilize large acreage is incredible. There are many ways to do things cheaper, but it’s a lot of trial and error and those things also add to the financial losses of the farm. There are no government subsidies for organic farms, and there are government imposed fees to cover inspections proving that the farm is not using the chemicals that our subsidized, conventional counterparts are using.

The rules always are changing, forcing farms to shell out funds they likely do not have or get a loan to keep the farm functioning while enforcing new laws. For example, one new law being considered when I left the farm in 2016 was that all acreage was to be covered entirely with bird netting to prevent birds from landing on plants or in fields potentially contaminating the produce with feces. This would be a very difficult feat for a farm to cover their entire crop with bird netting. Not only is the netting expensive, but a structure would have to be built over the crops so that harvesting could still continue while the netting was in place. Not to mention that bird netting is also not made to last for long and would likely need to be replaced every year.

With our livestock, California came out with new egg sanitation laws in 2015. All egg shells had to be sanitized in an approved solution before being sold to the public. Eggs come out of the hen with a protective coating on them that prevents bacterial contamination of the interior so that a chick can grow and develop inside of it over the course of its 28 day incubation. This same coating, called the bloom, protects the unfertilized eggs that we eat, if they are not washed. Unwashed eggs can keep outside of refrigeration for at least a week and refrigerated, about 90 days. Once washed, and the bloom removed, the shell becomes penetrable, sensitive to contamination, and can no longer stay fresh for as long as the natural egg can… but these rules are imposed to supposedly protect people. Small organic farms that previously sold unwashed eggs with instructions to wash before use, much like we do our produce, were forced to purchase egg washing devices, sanitizing solutions, and begin logging egg sanitation; therefore paying for yet another point of inspection. This is only a tiny glimpse of the extra costs an organic farm has to figure out how to cover. There are also livestock feed costs that are nearly double that of conventional feed and regulations of required shelter and provisions for the animals (this is a good thing), that conventional farms do not have. Our old farm manager used to joke about the cost of organic food, saying that you pay now with your dollars or you pay later with your health… and one isn’t as easy to get back.

From your experience of having worked an organic farm, do you think all that goes into organic farming on the farm side and on the consumer end is worth it?

Absolutely! There is nothing more rewarding than working your butt off to sow, nourish and grow something that you know with your whole heart is good food. Then seeing someone else admire, and enjoy it, providing life to people—there is nothing like it. I cannot imagine working on a conventional farm, seeing my employees fall ill or give birth to babies with major defects because of pesticide exposure and then knowingly sell that food to the public. Even the warnings I see on the boxes in the produce department where I now work, make me want to run to every parent who picks up conventional grapes, for example, and tell them don’t feed that to your kids!

Farming Trends

Currently, there’s an effort to ‘demonize’ organic farming or ‘bastardize’ it.  What are your thoughts about that?

It boils down to money. People are educating themselves; documentaries exposing conventional farming secrets are booming; people are realizing that they can take control of their diet and take control of their health; and conventional farms are losing money. It’s an attempt to rid the competition and, hopefully, most folks can see through it.

Do you think big agriculture ever will change their industrial, chemicalized methods of food growing?  

I think dollars speak and if people refuse to buy conventional produce, big farms have to make some tough choices. Unfortunately, with our current government, we are taking steps backwards, where a year ago things like the non-GMO movement and getting healthy food to kids in schools were on the front burner. Our government allows organic farming to exist within its controls, but favors big AG. Under the cover that this country can’t survive without government subsidies for wheat, corn, milk and soy, money gets shuffled from one pocket to another while fees and regulations increase for the little guys who are trying to do it right. I think change is possible, but not without continuing education of the public and people like you, Catherine, who pour themselves into exposing the truth and helping people help themselves.

Consumers Food Guide

If consumers can’t afford a 100% organic food diet, which food crops would you say are a must to buy organically?

Unfortunately this changes every season because pests change every season. Grasshoppers are bad every two years.  In California, the Bagrada bug, a major pest that currently has zero natural predators and no organic pesticides have been effective against, is spreading rapidly. Any Cruciferous produce from California should NOT be eaten conventionally-grown, that’s kale, mustard greens, broccoli, and cauliflower. The conventional farms are literally dousing those vegetables with pesticides 10 times the recommended dosage because of the Bagrada bug, which is attracted first and foremost to the Cruciferous or Brassicaceae family.

Bagrada bug crop damage

Bagrada bugs at work


Grapes are a huge no-no, they are really susceptible to fungal disease so often sprayed heavily with antifungals and they are also shipped with chemically impregnated paper liners to try and keep them fresh longer. No doubt those chemicals absorb right through the grape’s thin skin.

Herbs are safe to eat non-organic as they generally do not have pest issues because of their potency and essential oil content. Even I cannot afford to shop entirely at Whole Foods, or 100% organic, especially with meat and dairy, which our family chooses to consume. I have spoken to several nutritionists about this issue as well as two naturopathic doctors and all have unanimously agreed that the nutrients you are missing out on by avoiding produce because of the fear associated with pesticides, are more harmful than if you had consumed the conventional produce. In other words, nutrition comes first, then worry about whether or not it’s clean. That is the opinion I have gotten. Whether it is right or not, I do not know.

Unfortunately, Kristi, I would have to disagree, especially in the case of GMO crops and glyphosate-sprayed food crops, which include most grains and legumes which are sprayed during a preharvest staging process.  Glyphosate is very damaging to the liver, the gut microbiome and kids with Autism who experience gut problems. Nutrients can be made up via safe nutritional supplementation, but ingesting toxic poisons and having them lodge in vital organs is not nutritionally sound advice, I offer, as a natural nutritionist, retired.  Nutrients are important, but remember, you cannot poison a body into wellness, I say.

Kristi’s Thoughts

What did you learn about organic farming that amazed you?

When I think about the tiny seed that given only water mysteriously comes to life, I am amazed. Additionally, and this applies to both produce and livestock, the notion that a life is given so another life can continue is a beautiful circle that cannot deny the perfection of creation.

There are also negatives that amazed me in a not so wonderful way – the decisive ignorance of the general public, my own parents included, about the who, what, and why of chemicals, what is in our food, the way we are killing ourselves and damaging the land we so desperately need for survival. Those things are hard. There were times when I poured my heart into trying to show someone or explain why organic living matters, and sometimes, despite now having that knowledge, they still can’t see it; and that too amazes me.

Have you or your family experienced benefits from eating organically grown food?  

I started to eat organic when I was pregnant with my first son. Sadly, I had yet to learn about the dangers of vaccines.  My unborn child, I believe was vaccine injured in utero by a flu shot I was told I needed in my first trimester of pregnancy. Since his autism diagnosis, we have about a 90% organic and gluten free diet. He is doing much better than I could have imagined back then and clearly begins to deteriorate mentally when we become lax about healthy eating.

Our second son was born very healthy and strong and continues to develop without issues neurologically or physically.  He is unvaccinated and raised on a highly organic diet. Two of us recently developed autoimmune issues after unknown mold exposure in our home, yet we are un-medicated, and doing well.

Having a family and eating organic is really tough. It’s a decision my husband and I made years ago that our health was worth the sacrifice. We go without other luxuries so that we can have a healthy diet. We started slow, first with only organic milk, then adding organic chicken and some produce, and then two years or so into it, we got used to the larger grocery bill and were able to go almost entirely organic. There was also a time, when I was out of work after giving birth and we relied on WIC and SNAP benefits to keep ourselves afloat.  Even then, there are decisions that can be made to buy the cleanest food you can get, despite a very small income and restrictions on what you can purchase.  Read labels, educate yourself, it’s very empowering to not be a victim to our failing health system by taking control of your nutrition.

Kristi, I thank you so very much for sharing with my readers your first-hand working knowledge of organic farming. However, I’m thinking my readers may want to know a little more about what you did on the farm, since your organic farming experience seemed comprehensive.

Can you please describe some of the job descriptions you performed?

We had 700 olive trees. I coordinated harvesting events involving the public because olives must be pressed (milled is actually the correct term) within 24 hours of harvest to be considered extra virgin. They also begin to turn rancid rather quickly after harvest. Considering we had about 6,000 pounds to harvest in only one day, this was a big deal. I also planned the milling, which is booking a day with the mill, finding a mill nearby (they are becoming more rare), and coordinating the trip… truck rental, hotel, etc.

The farm was most well-known for its 20 acres of lavender. I was in charge of making sure the crops had sufficiently working water lines (coyotes chewed them often for water since it’s very hot in southern California), as well as researching new trial varieties and upkeep of our sample garden. When it came time for harvest, we planned with our landscaping team for harvest. We tied and hung a portion for drying and later use in the kitchen and also bath products and wholesale. The remaining lavender we distilled into essential oil.  I ran the distiller, distilling 100 gallons of fresh herbs at a time, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week until bloom or harvest had been completed. We did the same with rosemary and tea tree though each of them was only two acres and thankfully had separate times of the year for harvest.

In 2014 our farm had a major wild fire come through. In an attempt to save the historic buildings (the farm was originally a stagecoach stop), fire crews brought in tractors to build berms of soil near our creek which was the farm’s water supply. In their haste to beat the incoming flames, the fire teams broke the water lines supplying the garden and not only did we lose everything we had growing for that season, but the California drought was declared as well. Our creek had come to a trickle and there wasn’t enough to keep a vegetable garden going. We chose to save the lavender and give whatever water came through to the herbs instead. Before this happened we had a very grand garden: 400 heirloom tomato plants, hundreds of corn stalks, beans, summer squash, cucumbers, lettuce, rare peppers, artichokes, Korean onions, Shisho… If I remember correctly we had over 50 varieties going at once. It was pretty dreamy.

In the end I also cared for our livestock, mostly sheep, a few cows, many chickens, one llama and farm dogs. This was pretty encompassing. I fed them daily, spent time with them so they would know me and trust me, watched their pregnant bellies grow and sat with them while they labored if it was difficult. I coordinated shearing events to raise the money to pay for their shearing. I castrated the males shortly after birth and ear tagged each new arrival with the farm name and their own number.

Along with all of this came paperwork – tons of it. More than I could have imagined. We had a binder for each type of animal, and a binder for each type of crop. The logs included dates of birth or death, food rations for each head, housing and space per animal, any medications given, how much, how long, etc. eggs hatched, eggs collected, animals sold or slaughtered, where food, vitamins or mineral supplements were purchased (receipts accounting for all food claimed required). For crops, the paperwork is no less. There are maps of the farm indicating the exact areas where specific crops are grown. We have harvest and planting logs, logs for oil production (each individual batch: how many pounds of fresh herb, how much oil was produced and a log number for each batch as well), storage location and if it ever left our property (like if we used a bottling company or something, which we didn’t). Any fertilizers, soil amendments, compost, pruning and even when we cleaned our tools and what we cleaned them with. Pretty much everything I did all day everyday on the farm had to be logged on the date performed and filed for inspection. The inspection, even for our small farm, because we were involved in so much, took several days. I was responsible for all of this.  We also had staff that produced sellable food and body products. Though this was all tied into the farm, they held the responsibility for that portion of the organic inspection.

Again, I want to thank you, Kristi, for helping us to understand all that goes into organic farming and why it’s so important to eat organically-grown food.

Long live organics!

Catherine J Frompovich (website) is a retired natural nutritionist who earned advanced degrees in Nutrition and Holistic Health Sciences, Certification in Orthomolecular Theory and Practice plus Paralegal Studies. Her work has been published in national and airline magazines since the early 1980s. Catherine authored numerous books on health issues along with co-authoring papers and monographs with physicians, nurses, and holistic healthcare professionals. She has been a consumer healthcare researcher 35 years and counting.

Catherine’s latest book, published October 4, 2013, is Vaccination Voodoo, What YOU Don’t Know About Vaccines, available on

Her 2012 book A Cancer Answer, Holistic BREAST Cancer Management, A Guide to Effective & Non-Toxic Treatments, is available on and as a Kindle eBook.

Two of Catherine’s more recent books on are Our Chemical Lives And The Hijacking Of Our DNA, A Probe Into What’s Probably Making Us Sick (2009) and Lord, How Can I Make It Through Grieving My Loss, An Inspirational Guide Through the Grieving Process (2008)

Catherine’s NEW book: Eat To Beat Disease, Foods Medicinal Qualities ©2016 Catherine J Frompovich is now available

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19 Comments on "Organically-Grown: Is It Worth The Price You Pay? An Interview With An Organic Farm Manager"

  1. Doran Zeigler | June 23, 2017 at 11:13 am | Reply

    I have been working for an organic farm since 2003 and was involved in an organic food co-op for nine years. The question posed concerning the worth of organic produce, at this point for me, is highly annoying. I have read at least 100 articles asking this same question — it is becoming nauseous.

    People willingly spend hundreds of dollars on their phones, cable subscriptions, and prescription drugs. Yet, when it comes to preventative health issues like not putting toxic substances in their bodies and eating food (non GMOs) that has been proven to be more nutritious, the subject of cost suddenly arises. It is hypocritical.

    What should be a dead issue is constantly given new life by repetitive reports and articles. The increase that I pay is negligible and pales in comparison to the money I and my family have saved on doctors and medical expenses. One illness or stay at a hospital can easily dwarf the small increase for organic foods.

    On another note, costs involved in certification are very high. Not being certified does not mean one is not growing organically. I know of many farmers who grow organically, but are not certified. I was in charge of filing all the yearly documents for organic certification. I have seen these fees continuously rise to where it is impossible for small farmers to afford certification. The farm that I work with is a medium size farm that has been certified since its inception.

    This year, we dropped the certification because of the high cost. The crops are still being grown the way they always have been grown — organically. The only difference being is that we had to drop the word “certified” from our signs and labels. Most of our customers are already familiar with our growing methods and can visit the farm any time they want.

    I am an apostle when it comes to organics, as is the farm owner, and if the day should ever arrive when he would decide to cheat and use chemicals, that would be the same day that I would quit.

    Organics are the future. Organics are being embraced by many large corporations that now feature organic products. In this day and age to ask the question or make any statements that there are no benefits to organics is to be akin to a lumbering Jurassic dinosaur.

    A word of caution — two of my family members worked for Whole Foods for 12 years and have detailed to many all of the foibles of WF’s organics and GMOs. They are not to be trusted because WF’s first obligation is to its stockholders. Besides selling a lot of questionable and expensive products, their employees relationship and system of team leaders leaves a lot to be desired. My advice for people is to find a local Farmers Market and do your purchasing from a local who you can trust. And above all — avoid Chinese or foreign produce, most of which are sub-standard to American organic products.

  2. I have been an organic gardener for 50 years. I am shocked that commercial organic farms lose up to 1/3 of their crop. They are definitely doing things wrong. I would bet the farm they are falling into some of the same traps as commercial farming such as mono-cultures and tight spacing to maximize yields.
    The value in organics comes from the quality of heirloom varieties. GMO’s are grown for ship-ability and hardiness–not flavor or nutrition. The trade off is that heirlooms are far more susceptible to pests and disease so yes, the trade off is more labor and constant management. You don’t just throw the seeds in the ground and come back at harvest time.

  3. Great article Catherine! A little long, but interesting and informative.
    I’ve been buying organic produce for at least 10 years and am greatful for any information I can get. I recently learned about the spraying of grains with glyphosate just before harvest to aid in the process of drying and production. I was shocked! After being so careful w/produce and not eating sprayed crops or “boxed” phood, I was angry. I began to wonder if my stomach/liver issues had something to do with the bread I was eating. I stopped eating wheat products altogether and within a few days I felt so much better. The issues are now gone. I have added a little organic bread occasionally as a test, and so far so good.
    Thing is, so many people have digestive issues and take drugs for them. Just look at all the pharma advertising. It’s a booming business, but the issues don’t go away because the source is a chemical food problem. Drugs only mask the symptoms.
    My point is, the money people spend on doctors & drugs could be spent on organic food.

    • This was a genocide program that has been thwarted. I had the same experience with wheat and quit for the same reason. You can eat Sourdough bread and there are a lot of gluten free products that are pretty good. Health is our greatest wealth and the future belongs to the fit.

  4. We buy only organics. It is at a higher cost, but what cost health?
    Buy Organic.
    Thumbs down to Monsatino and all gmo producers which should be shuttered, never to see the light of day.

  5. Organic gardener here for 43 years. It seems to me that the onerous costs of inspections ,labels ,licensing etc along with the lack of govt funding for organic is a very real problem that needs to be addressed.

    Thirty years ago I met an inspector for a regular corn field that was sadly planted next door to me. He allowed as there were 300 registered chemicals allowed to be sprayed on cornfields! Along with the Diazanon, Malathion, Roundup, chemical fertilizers ; corn fields are to my knowledge the only place where LEAD ARSENATE is still legally used. This is why most rice grown in USA is full of arsenic; because they use old cotton fields & the plants uptake the Ar.

    Golf courses used lead arsenate up until 2013; but have been allowed to continue to use any lead arsenate that they stockpiled. My dentist ; who had to be chelated for Hg poisoning also had high levels of lead & arsenic in his body shown on quantitative testing. He was not happy when I told him it was coming from his daily trips to his beloved golf course.

    The other crime here is that your tax dollars are being used to “reeducate” the public on the virtues of GMO and subsidize chemical farms. Tax subsidies make competition from small farms nearly impossible & that is the goal ; to wipe out the competition. As a retiree the only way I can afford to eat well is to grow much of my own food which is getting harder as I age. Antibiotic free, hormone free, gluten free meat as well as wild caught fish are now a condiment as the prices are rising every few months as well as becoming harder to find.

  6. Valerie Woodard | June 24, 2017 at 11:05 am | Reply

    Do I trust Bezos, who recently hired Satanic Pedophile Skippy Podesta to lead a Washington Post led propaganda coup against the elected president? Hell F-ing NO!!!! Not a single bite of CIA Whole Foods phood will pass my lips. This brand died for me when management, which Bezos says he’ll keep, colluded to defeat GMO labeling laws. In my area, their organic produce is more likely to be foreign, whereas the local Ralph’s has locally grown organics at a fraction of the cost.

  7. Back when I was managing an organic farm in Oregon, in the 90’s, not only were certification and testing fees outrageous, we had to compete with California growers who did not have meet the virtually zero tolerances for pesticide residues like we did. As a result, the flood of cheaper Calorganics made staying in business next to impossible unless you were fortunate enough to find an unexploited market niche. Not only that, Calorganic customers were unwittingly poisoning themselves in spite of buying something they thought was “certified” organic. Ironic? Borderline criminal, if you ask me. But then I was “warned” not to make this information public, to keep it under my hat, by none other than our own certification agency, which tried to “buy” my silence, as they had previously managed to do with others. Can you believe it? I couldn’t, which is why I got out the whole damned “certified” organic business. Have things changed since then? I doubt it, since many of the residues have half-lives spanning decades, and you can rest assured that all of our prime farm land is chock full of it. As are all of our certification agencies. Moral: never trust a certification agency. Develop a relationship with a local grower and certify it yourselves. Or, better yet, develop a relationship with the earth and all of its precious lifeforms, and grow it yourselves. There’s nothing like it!

    • Interesting you say this bec sometimes I wonder if what I’m buying is actually organic. Who’s checking the checkers? I do like living in OR bec of living so close to fresh grown food, but gov’t agencies everywhere have a tendency towards corruption and that’s just the way it is. Trust but verify, as they say. Then again there’s only so much an average apartment-dwelling consumer can do. Farmer’s markets are a good place to start talking to growers. Maybe my doubts weren’t so far off after all. Thanks for sharing.

    • Moral imbeciles target anyone trying to climb out of the jar, anyone doing anything positive for their health. Look very closely at your vitamins as they slip in things that are harmful.

    • karaool, you hit the nail on the head. I’m a small naturally-grown vegetable farmer, and I purposely determined not to obtain organic certification because I want the government involved in my food as little as possible. One of my ‘tag-lines’ for my direct to consumer sales is “better than organic–ask me why.” A small percentage of customers actually will ask. It is then that I explain about the ridiculous regulatory system that considers putting bird netting over a farm because of a pathological fear of poop, but allows the ubiquitous use of “organic” neurotoxins–just in case you might get one insect chew hole in a leaf of chard. If people roll their eyes, I bid them farewell. But many understand, and that alone is worth the effort at education. The first, and best, step you can take to improve the quality of your food is to grow it or buy it locally from people you can get to know, ask questions of, and be welcome to see their operation–and stop relying on the corrupt government for as much as you possibly can.

  8. Real Organic = Higher Quality (usually and properly documented with stiff fines and even jail for fraudsters in the organics food industry doing illegal crimes) so when there’s an increase of quality there’s an increase in price. What’s so shocking about that founding principle of Economics 101??

    • You are incredibly naive. Of course if a small organic farmer messed up something on an inspection, they’d be decertified and possibly punished. But do you, for one minute, believe that the head of operations for Driscolls (which has had a representative on the NOP forever) would go to jail if the goobermint found out that they’d been spraying their organic strawberries with the same poisons they spray on their conventional product? If so, I’ve got some cool lakefront property in Death Valley I’d like you to consider.

      • I’m not naive at all. Notice I used the word “Real”? As in “real organics”? Driscoll’s obviously isn’t a real organic producer no matter what it says on their packaging and I’m sure with a little investigation on one’s food sources that fact would be somewhat well known – Driscoll’s organic claims could be…suspect. Natural News dot com and other health related websites are full of blowing the whistle on these frauds. While jail would be a welcome development should they be caught doing something illegal, loss of market share from a boycott would run a close second. Anyway I stand by my Libertarian stance that higher quality as in “REAL organics” in more costly and the reason is one of Economics 101’s basic principles. Higher quality means higher prices period.

        • Well, in either event, I can guarantee you that those laws will only be used to stop those people who don’t have sufficient wherewithal to make significant bribes, er, I mean, campaign donations to those in the Ag Committee in the Congress.

  9. Medical marijuana users should be aware that most medical marijuana 60-80% is contaminated with herbicides and pesticides (why, I don’t know, unless it is to poison us) so go organic.

    • Please show verification as there are inspection standards in place for medical products. MJ needs little if any pesticides and is not GMO [yet] so herbicides would render it not harvestable. That said I do not doubt that it will be laced with “enhancements” for different effect. This was a big problem even back in the 70s when USA was spraying Paraquat defoliant all over Mexican MJ crops. Also poor quality pot would be laced with other drugs giving very undesired effects. If you are in a legal state grow your own. Cheaper safer reliable product.

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