(WFLX) - You may see words like 'natural', 'free-range', 'pesticide free' used to describe food at the market, but the organic label is the only one with strict federal guidelines backing it up.
They're all locally produced, and some are even grown without pesticides, but none of these farmers can call their products officially organic. It takes a lot to earn that label.
"It has been a challenge learning the right things to do," said George Teague. He and his family own Reedy Fork Organic Dairy Farm in Guilford County, North Carolina.
Five years ago, they transitioned from a traditional operation to an organic one. "We had almost decided to go out of business. Then, we started looking at organic," Teague explained.
It saved his family business and changed the way Teague looks at his 600 acre farm and how he sees his dairy cows. "The biggest thing that's amazing to me is how much more healthy the animals are."
Earning the U.S. Department of Agriculture's organic certification label means Teague can't give his cows any hormones or antibiotics. Also, the cows are required to the roam about pastures freely, and they can only eat 100 percent organic grain.
Under new guidelines, 30 percent of their food will have to be grass. "Grass is just their natural food, and they do better on grass," said Teague. "When they're healthier, than the food we eat is healthier."
But making all of that grass and grain organic is no small task. It takes years. "Somebody can't just decide, 'I'm going to start growing organic this year, and it be organic," said Teague. "You have to have no pesticides or herbicides or chemical fertilizers for three years."
Now, he truly takes pleasure in doing things the same way his grandfathers did. "It's not about not using things. It's about using the right things."