Back in March and April, I wrote two entries about Sweet Water Organics (SWO) questioning how many jobs SWO has really created since receiving a $250,000 forgivable loan from the City of Milwaukee and questioning whether Sweet Water Organics was really organic according to USDA standards.
At the time I questioned whether SWO was certified by the USDA, but an email exchange yesterday with Todd Leech, the VP/Sales Manager of SWO, confirmed that Sweet Water Organics really isn’t USDA-certified organic. Here’s what Leech had to say in response to my inquiry:
No, Jesse [Hull] lost all the paperwork I gave him in the first place. We are currently working with Oregon Tilth at the recommendation of my friends at MOSA and our sprouts will be certified soon and the rest to follow. If you’ve ever worked at a farm in this country you’d understand the politics of the USDA who’s more in line with Monsanto than farmers or producers. The only reason that I’m going forward with organic certification is because it means more to people like you than understanding real local agricultural systems. The organic mess that the USDA certification has created makes it more profitable for Chilean farmers to ship to China then to Canada before import to the U.S. and still be cheaper than farmers from East Troy, Boscobel, Viroqua or Milwaukee who can’t compete, ergo people like you and companies like Wal-Mart propagate this system.
Asked if he had any response to Todd Leech’s accusation that he lost “all the paperwork” pertaining to USDA organic certification, Jesse Hull emailed me noting, “I did not “lose all the paperwork” that Todd gave me. It was left in the filing cabinet just as all the other documents and property of SWO was.”
It’s worth noting that even if Todd Leech’s version of things is to be believed, it’s taken just about a year for Leech to re-file the paperwork, paperwork that from what I can tell is readily available, begging the question why the folks at SWO seem to be dragging their feet when it comes to seeking official “organic” certification.
While there seems to be some dispute about why SWO is still not a USDA-certified organic operation four years after it came into being, the misuse of the label “organic” on food packaging and by companies seeking to capitalize on the reputation of all things “organic” is a more common practice than one would think, according to the Cornucopia Institute’s blog.
“Companies are getting away with using the word ‘organic’ in their company name, listed prominently on food packages, even if the product they’re selling isn’t certified organic,” explains Charlotte Vallaeys, Farm and Food Policy Analyst with The Cornucopia Institute. “These companies are taking advantage of the good name and reputation of organics, without going the extra mile to actually source all organic ingredients in their products.”
Considering the fact that Todd Leech of Sweet Water Organics has confirmed via email that SWO is not actually certified organic by the USDA, it would seem that SWO fits into the category of companies that are “taking advantage of the good name and reputation of organics” without going the extra mile to actually be organic.