Real Organic Project

Is Hydroponic – Organic?

The debate continues on whether fruits or vegetables grown hydroponically instead of in soil, should be allowed the organic label. The USDA says yes!


David Proctor

 Urban Farmer/Rancher

Is Hydroponically Grown, Organic?

by David Proctor

April 27, 2023

Urban Farm Lifestyle Magazine    Published Weekly

The occupations of many small farmers rely on being able to get a higher price for a superior product.

Hydroponics is a system that allows plant nutrients to be accessed by the plant through the water that the plant is in.

No soil is involved with the transition of nutrients to the plant. 

It is a very effective system, uses less water than soil-based agriculture, and allows plants to be grown inside without requiring a lot of land, without most pests and competing weeds.

Shipping Container

I really enjoy having fruit and vegetables that are out of season but I do not think that substantially more should be paid for a product that doesn’t live up to the same quality as organic.

You have to keep in mind that a hydroponic system feeds the plant. 

Organic feeds the soil that feeds the plant.

I never really thought too much about whether hydroponically grown fruit or vegetables was organic or not. 

Until I started patronizing the organic aisle and paying a premium for the produce, meat, and dairy. 

You think you are getting a product that is either grown in the soil or is eating what has been grown in the soil organically.

Grown In Soil

So, what is organic, and who puts that label on things that we pay more for? 

Organic labels are placed by inspectors who are controlled by the USDA National Organics Program (NOP), United States Department of Agriculture. 

The USDA takes into account guidelines established by the National Organics Standards Board (NOSB).

In 1995 Organic was defined by the NOSB as “an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain, and enhance ecological harmony”

Soilless environments weren’t really being considered organic nor did the rest of the world consider hydroponics as organic.

Everything went along well until the popularity of eating healthy and eating organic started to take off.

When money is involved, things start to change quickly. 

Other countries started to import their products to the US since they could get a better price with their hydroponically grown produce and be able to use the organic label that other countries would not allow

Mexico, Canada, and Holland all import tomatoes, peppers, berries, lettuce, and other fruits and vegetables as organic in this country, but can’t sell as organic in their own country, because they are hydroponically grown!

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike hydroponics, it has its place. 

Hydroponics was the key element in my farm plan to feed my animals. 

But I never considered that I would call that organic. 

How often do you see in the organic aisle the label hydroponically grown organic? 

I am not against the hydroponic industry nor am I here to demonize the hydroponic growers. 

The problem is the USDA has not lived up to maintaining the standards of organic and has been allowing these growers to be certified because of money and influence.

Shipping Containers

In fact, I have used a hydroponics system for growing my jalapeno plants. 

As I said before, do we feed the plant or feed the soil? 

The most natural way and healthiest way is to feed the soil that feeds the plant

If you think that soil is inert and is just there to support the plant, till we feed it with Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium, then you may not get this article at all or wonder what the big deal is.

The true test is in your taste buds. 

During the seasonal time of year for locally grown fruits and vegetables, try tasting a true organic against a hydroponically grown one and see if you can tell any difference.

Fruit & Vegetables

How many wines have you bought that said they were made from grapes grown hydroponically?

Samuel Adams advertises that they make their beer from hops that are grown at one location in Germany.

The soil on this farm provides the taste that is found with the Hallertau Mittlefruh hop.

The debate goes on.

If you want a say in it, I would normally say you can vote with your dollars, but if you don’t know what you’re buying because the labels don’t tell you what you are really purchasing then that process is hardly effective.

In the market, a new label has gone on products that meet the true and original concept of “Organic”, started by the Real Organic Project.

This is placed on organic products that meet the criteria or Real Organic.

Check It Out!

Quick Tip


Dixon, Linley, Ph.D. “Is Hydroponics Organic?” Cornucopia Institute. N.p., 11 Mar. 2015. Web. 27 April 2023.

“Should You Buy Hydroponic Vegetables?” Rodale’s Organic Life. N.p., 30 Mar. 2015. Web. 27 April 2023.

“Keep-soil-in-organic.” Keep-soil-in-organic. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 April 2023.

Damrosch, Barbara. N.p., 27 April 2023. Web.

“Green City Growers Main Navigation.” Green City Growers. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 April 2023.

Dykstra, Jim. “Hallertau: Hop Nobility and Its Bostonian Knight.” The Beer Connoisseur, The Beer Connoisseur, 3 Aug. 2015, Web 27 April 2023.

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