Taking individual steps to reduce pesticide use, protect water sources or improve air quality are worthy goals in and of themselves, and cannot be underestimated. That's one reason why Protected Harvest, the groundbreaking certification program formed in 2001 to help conventional agriculture reduce its environmental impact, is becoming a preferred alternative for producers who find it difficult to adopt organic standards.
“Some crops just aren't easily grown without chemical inputs, and that's just the reality,” said Andrea Caroe, Protected Harvest's executive director, and current chairwoman of the National Organic Standards Board.
This year, retailers can expect certified stone fruit, mushrooms and oranges to hit the market. In the works are programs for California table grapes, as well as strawberries, which have long relied on the soil fumigant methyl bromide — now being phased out under international agreement.
Crops are certified after farmers achieve a set number of points for each best practice they incorporate.
“Our program is not about what you don't use, it's how best to use what you have,” said Caroe.