San Diego County has always been at the forefront of organic farming. The county has over 350 growers registered as organic. In 2017, organic growers in the county produced more than 150 unique crops and over 320 unique crop varieties. Crop varieties range from the usual such as oranges, grapes, and avocados to the unusual like cherimoyas, loquats, and jujubes.
The majority of organic produce grown locally is sold to wholesalers who in turn sell it to markets across the United States. A portion of the produce is sold directly to local restaurants and natural food stores. Organic growers also sell directly to the public through produce stands, Certified Farmers' Markets throughout the County of San Diego, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. The USDA’s National Organic Program defines “organic agriculture” as an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. This means that organic operations must maintain or enhance soil and water quality, while also conserving wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used. San Diego County has 9.6% of the total number of organic growers in the state.
The California Organic Products Act of 2003 (now the California Organic Food and Farming Act) was created at the request of the organic food industry with the goal of protecting producers, handlers, processors, retailers, and consumers of organic foods sold in California. The law amended existing California organic law to conform with the requirements of the National Organic Program (NOP) and enforced labeling requirements relating to "organic" claims for fresh agricultural products.
The law divides the oversight responsibilities between the California
Department of Public Health (CDPH)
which is responsible for processed food products, cosmetics and pet food, and the California Department of Agriculture (CDFA) which is responsible for raw agricultural commodities, meat, poultry, and dairy products. The County Agricultural Commissioners work with CDFA's Organic Program in registering organic growers, enforcing applicable organic laws and regulations, and investigating consumer complaints regarding organic products..