Ask Leah! The Ingles Dietitian

Sponsored: What's behind the USDA Certified Organic designation?

ingles dietitianQUESTION: When something is USDA certified organic does it mean the farmer doesn’t use pesticides on their crops or orchards?

ANSWER: This is not a yes/no answer. How farmers manage their crops depends on the crop, the climate, the land , and the pressures (rainfall, insects, weeds) during the growing season.


The National Organic Program issues the USDA organic seal that corresponds with specific guidelines for farmers and producers. Like many of their conventional farmer neighbors; farmers that comply with the National Organic Program focus first on prevention of weeds and insects. 

For organic farmers in the National Organic Program, should those methods not be sufficient or effective they can only use specific non-synthetic pesticides that are approved by the National Organic Program:

“Biological or botanical substances or materials ….may be used only if preventative practices are not adequate to prevent or control pests, weeds or diseases.” (Source:

Related Items

It is important to remember that many farmers may utilize organic methods but may not be certified organic. 

To find out more about pesticides and fruits and vegetables please see and check out the pesticide calculator. 

Leah McGrath, RDN, LDN

Ingles Markets Corporate Dietitian


Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.