Inland Empire CSA




Since founding De Luz Farms and Nursery, the Leavitt's have gone into Organic farming in a big way. The following articles are not "sugar-coated" or meant to be misleading. They are our attempt to be as accurate as possible so that the reader can answer the very important question, "why Organic?" to their own satisfaction:



Organic crops may contain elevated levels of cancer-fighting anti-oxidants. Antioxidants in the body as a rule inhibit tissue damage from free radicals. Research at UC Davis showed that organically grown marionberries and corn contained about 50 percent more phenolics (hence antioxidants) than their conventionally grown counterparts. Plants produce the phenolics in response to stresses such as an insect attack. Apparently, when pesticides and weedkillers eliminate sources of stress, plants fail to produce the phenolics.

A current article on the Organic Center for Education and Promotion website states that, in seven studies that measured antioxidant content, organically grown produce averaged 30% more antioxidants than conventional produce. Once again, because of the large number of variables involved, these results must be taken not as definitive, but suggestive.

But the many "suggestions" from this article and the ones below, all seem to be adding up in favor of organics. You get to decide.



Numerous published data sets suggest that consumers may also be justified in assuming that organic produce is more nutritious than conventionally grown produce. However, because of the large number of variables involved and the consequent large scatter in the data, it is not yet possible to draw firm conclusions. Nutrients in fruits and vegetables vary with plant variety, soil type, microclimate, time since harvest, and post-harvest handling. If any of these variables differs for a given comparison, interpretation of nutrient differences is open to question. Hence the Organic Farming Research Foundation states on its web site that "the definitive study has not been done."

While the definitive study may not have been done, there have been many suggestive studies. One of the best was reported in the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, in a paper by Virginia Worthington entitled "Nutritional Quality of Organic Versus Conventional Fruits, Vegetables and Grains." This paper is an extension of Worthington's doctoral dissertation at Johns Hopkins University. Her conclusion was that "There appearto be genuine differences in the nutrient content of organic and conventional crops." We now present a few key results from Worthington's paper that expand on this conclusion.

Worthington analyzed measurements reported primarily by other investigators. She had concluded that uncontrolled differences in growing conditions and consequent large scatter in reported data made it impossible to draw confident conclusions. Consequently, she collected all available data and performed statistical analyses to find significant trends. In all, she used data of 41 different studies—including one of her own: Comprising 1240 comparisons. Each comparison involved measuring a single nutrient in an organic fruit, vegetable or grain and comparing with the same nutrient in a conventional fruit, vegetable or grain of the same variety grown in the same season.

The 41 studies investigated differences in 21 nutrient minerals, four heavy metals, eight vitamins, nitrates, and protein quality. Of these, only 12 nutrients were measured often enough to permit statistical analysis. Worthington applied a standard test for statistical significance to these 12 and found that measurements on only four nutrients and one toxic substance passed the test. That is, the measured differences between organic and conventional were not statistically significant except for the five substances. The five substances that passed the test were vitamin C, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and nitrates. The first four are desirable nutrients, while nitrates are undesirable.

Worthington's results for these five prove that organic produce on average has significantly more of the desirable nutrients and less of the toxic nitrates, a result very favorable for the organic side.

However, her results showed a large scatter in the individual comparisons. For example, although 83 comparisons showed more vitamin C in the organic food than in the conventional food, 38 showed less and 11 showed no difference. From these discrepancies one can get an idea of how difficult it would be to confidently conclude from the raw data that organic is always better than conventional. Worthington's statistical treatment increases the confidence level but still leaves a nagging uncertainty. Without more definitive measurements it won't be possible to completely dispel the uncertainty.

Despite uncertainties from the large scatter in the comparison data, all measurements indicated that on average organic food has more of the desirable nutrients and less of the undesirable than conventional food. Even though the statistical treatment was unable to confer significance on differences measured for the other nutrients, all the simple averages nevertheless favored organic over conventional. Specifically, the content of all 21 desirable minerals was higher in organic food than in conventional, and organic crops had lower amounts of heavy metals more often than their conventional counterparts. While the amount of protein in organic food was less than in conventional food, the quality of the protein in terms of desirable amino acids was better in the organic food.

Worthington noted that several of the findings make sense in terms of what we know about plants and their responses to soil minerals. Synthetic fertilizers tend to inundate root zones with excess plant nutrients, while organic methods provide a more continuous supply at lower levels. With excess nitrogen a plant is likely to increase nitrate and protein production and reduce carbohydrate production. Vitamin C is made from carbohydrates, so reduced concentrations of carbohydrates will curtail synthesis of vitamin C. Also, potassium fertilizer can reduce the magnesium content and indirectly the phosphorus content of at least some plants.

Overall the data strongly suggest that Organic crops have better nutrients than conventional crops, but we need that definitive experiment before we dare crow too loudly!


Pesticide residues.

Those who buy organic produce in order to avoid pesticide residues are almost always justified in paying extra. However, Organic produce is not always perfect in this respect. It has long been known that Organic produce sometimes has pesticide residues. These can come from a variety of sources: Drift from a nearby conventional farm, contaminated soil or water, unauthorized use of pesticides by the organic farmer, or contamination after harvest. Nevertheless, pesticide residues are almost always much lower in organic fruits and vegetables than in conventional fruits and vegetables.

The USDA Pesticide Data Program, in operation since 1991, has shown that ". . . conventional fruits are 3.6 times more likely to contain residues than organic fruit samples, and conventional vegetables are 6.8 times more likely to have one or more detectable residue". The Pesticide Data Program tests about 600 samples each of 12 different fresh or processed foods per year. "It is now clear that purchasing organic food is a reliable way to markedly reduce exposure to pesticides . . . Many consumers are now looking for practical ways to reduce personal risk . . . Consuming organic food is clearly one way to do just that." ~ Charles M. Benbrook, 2003.

Although the USDA has often claimed that organic food is no safer than any other food, results like the pesticide residue tests done by California Department of Pesticide Regulation, challenge that claim, as do studies that have investigated effects of pesticide residues on children. Research conducted in Mexico by a French team showed that children who were frequently exposed to pesticides suffered from a variety of deficiencies not normally present in unexposed children. A recent University of Washington study showed much higher levels of organophosphate pesticide metabolites in the urine of a child fed conventional food than of a child on an organic diet.

While samples positive for pesticide residues were found in organic foods, the percentage of positive samples was much lower for Organic than for conventional foods.


Sustainable agriculture.

Those who buy organic products in order to support sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture deserve a feeling of satisfaction.

Conventional farming, with its dependence on synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and weed killers damages soil and the environment. The emphasis of conventional farming is on improving the crop, not on improving the health of the soil or the environment.

Organic farming, in contrast, focuses on building up the soil. It feeds beneficial soil microorganisms and eschews poisons or chemicals that cause long-term imbalances. Plant health follows naturally from soil health.

While conventional farming over time can seriously damage soil, organic farming with its focus on soil health is sustainable indefinitely and does no damage to the environment.


Is Organic better?

Consumers are willing to pay extra for organically grown produce, but are they getting anything extra for the extra cash? Here are four possible benefits: First, consumers may be getting satisfaction out of the knowledge that they're supporting sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture. Second, the organic produce may contain fewer pesticide residues than conventionally grown produce. Third, the organic produce may have a better supply of healthful nutrients. Fourth, antioxidant content may be appreciably higher.

If organic produce proves to have higher densities of key nutrients and antioxidants, as data now suggest, consumers will get more such nutrients and antioxidants from eating organic than from eating an equal quantity of conventional produce.

This means they could get the same health benefits from smaller portions with fewer calories. It doesn't get much better than that!