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The Good, BETTER, Best of SOIL

For over a hundred years the good, better, best scale of pricing and merchandising has been used in retail from selling cars to toasters. The concept of having a variety of choices in a market-space gives customers options, and allows them the freedom to choose.

But to choose, customers must have the ability to research, or gather information on the products in a category, price range or quality level. Sometimes this is easy, and sometimes this is hard depending on the information available to the consumer. The internet opened the door for manufacturers to put out all kinds of information about their products, some factual, some fantasy. In many instances, the web has become the “word of mouth” through customer reviews and marketing campaigns that try to suck consumers in through a vortex of information.

In the world of soil, there are all kinds of composts, potting soils and topsoils. We are going to focus on the organic category of these soils, which brings a whole new level of confusion to the party. I have taught hundreds of organic gardening classes over the years, and when I ask my classes at the start of each class, “How many of you are organic gardeners?” Everyone raises their hands. I then ask, “How many of you eat organic food at home and shop organic at the supermarket?” Everyone, or almost everyone raises their hands again.

Organic gardening classroom filled with people
Organic Gardening Class

I finish the opening questioning of the witnesses in Organic Court with, “How many of you are confused with what ORGANIC means?” Everyone enthusiastically raises their hands and nod their heads up and down as the prosecution has just hit the bullseye!

Pretty amazing that an organic gardening class, with organic gardeners in it, doesn’t even know what organic means. I spin back to the class like Perry Mason, or a good tv show lawyer and ask, “I have one more question for all of you… “ The class in the garden center falls silent. “Do you buy organic because you think it’s better?” I hold everyone with a little dramatic pause for a moment, then, “And because it’s organic… you can trust it, right?!” I end my line of questioning with a hard STOP! Coffee cups drop to the floor, a SHIRT or two rips from arms thrusting an enthusiastic “YES” into the sky, one of the ORGANIC GARDENERS even falls out of their chairs in the back row. I nod my head in agreement like any good prosecutor because I just nailed it! Case closed! Class dismissed!

Why are these poor folks attending my classes confused? The answer to that question lies at the bottom of the organic rules and regulations ocean which is regulated by the Agricultural Marketing Services department of the FDA who runs our National Organic Program.

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service logo

The NOP is a good plan that tries to fit about fifty pounds of summer outfits into a twenty pound bag for a long trip to Miami. In other words, it bites off more than it can chew.

So, organic consumers see the word organic on the bag, or a logo from an organic certifier, like OMRI Listed and they think voila… pay dirt… this must be good.

OMRI Listed logo for organic use

And, worse than that, they think that all organic products are alike, and must be good, quality products and that they can trust them. And sadly, nothing can be further from the truth.

That brings us to the point of this article; the good, better, best scale of retail products, and in our case retail organic soil products. Most of the organic soil products fall into the BETTER category of soil products. The Good side of the scale really means BAD, or Cheap, but no store in their right mind would market something as our Bad line of soil. But they definitely exist. Think big box store soil. Giant hardware store soil. And soils that come from mega-fertilizer companies who also bag soil and try to fake you out because of name brand recognition from colorful shiny bags and ads on tv.

Now, the BEST Category is easy. There’s ONLY one soil company that I believe even fits in this category… Malibu Compost.

They make farm-made, biodynamic, real organic and Non-GMO compost on their organic farms from 100% organic dairy cow manure, wood shavings from the forest and the biodynamic preparations 502-507. They sell the compost as Bu’s Blend Biodynamic Compost,

hand holding Bu's Blend Compost above bags of Malibu Compost
Bu's Blend Biodynamic Compost

and make potting soil and seed starter too that all contain a minimum of 25% of Bu's Blend Biodynamic Compost in them. They test for GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, heavy metals, as well as nutrient availability and minerals. They are the most tested and best soil company that I know.

Which brings us back to BETTER. Most of the soils in the Better category of composts and soils are okay. They’re fair. They’ll do in a pinch and they're definitely better than the "Good", which really means bad. The problem that I have is that, that is not a good enough measure for organic consumers to trust.

What else can we look at to determine what soil to buy? First, research the company. Check out their website. Does it look fake with pictures straight out of Shutterstock?

A shovel in soil with plants and containers surrounding it.
Phony "organic gardening" image

Does anyone on the company website look like they actually garden? Second, flip over a bag at the nursery and read the ingredients list. Do you see a lot of wood?

two hands holding woody potting soil over white flowering groundcover..
Woody Potting Soil

Do you see things like chicken manure or green waste? Neither of these are good for an organic mix because of their sourcing. Chicken manure usually comes from CAFO facilities. Green waste generally comes from waste management facilities by municipalities who collect green bins filled with plant material that's been sprayed with poisons.

Rip open a bag and take a look inside. Are you buying a bag of wood with a little bit of dirt-looking stuff inside of it? That doesn’t seem too natural to me. Whoever came up with the concept that plants grow in wood? Not the one who created them. Now, I am not against wood products in soil mixes, I just don’t believe that it should be the dominant feature of a “soil” product, especially an "organic soil” product.

All of the above are the reasons why the newest, next generation of organic soils were created at Number 2 Organics.

Number 2 Organics tractor Logo

We wanted to give the organic consumer the best option in the BETTER Category of organic soils… and we believe we have. How do you know? Check out the website. Flip over a bag. Open a bag. The first thing you’ll ask yourself is., “Where’s the WOOD?” The next thing you’ll notice is that wonderful earthy smell, instead of that special stinky smell that most bagged soils come with.

But the best thing you'll notice is the performance of these farm made, premium organic products in your garden.

The Farm Made Organic Compost and the Premium Organic Topsoil come from nearly century old dairies and are loaded with biology (microbes) and nutrients.

Small scoopful of finished compost held over purple flowering salvia.
Farm Made Organic Compost by Number 2 Organics

Topsoil in hands held over red wheelbarrow filled with soil.
Premium Organic Topsoil by Number 2 Organics

The Premium Organic Potting Soil contains 1/3 of our Farm Made Organic Compost, peat, aged fir fines, pumice, volcanic rock dust, kelp and an inoculant from a spray made up of the biodynamic preparations.

Two hands holding good potting soil
Premium Organic Potting Soil by Number 2 Organics

Those are a few illustrations of what separates Number 2 from the rest of the BETTER pack.

It is our hope that by sharing the compost and topsoil from these wonderful and historic dairies, that we’ve made it simple for the organic consumer to discern what makes our line at Number 2 Organics an honest value among the good, better, best of soil.

© Randy Ritchie 2022


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