DES MOINES (AP) – Maharishi Vedic City has gone all natural.
The town of about 200 in southeast Iowa has become the nation’s first all-organic city, banning the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers within city limits in accordance with state and federal organic program standards.
“The people in the city already have been using all-organic, so this is making a policy of what was already the unwritten policy,” said Maureen Wynne, city attorney and one of the city’s founders.
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“There are a lot of organic products that can be used on lawns, shrubs and gardens that people already use. It just reinforces that.”
Acceptable products under federal guidelines include mulch for weed control, compost or manure to provide plant nutrients and certain soap-based formulas or biological controls for pests.
“Instead of trying to reinvent the standards, we decided to follow the guidelines already in place,” Wynne said.
Joan Shaffer, an organic expert with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said the agency’s organic program is a marketing tool for produce and doesn’t really pertain to such things as lawns and shrubs.
“If they want to say it’s an organic town, we have no jurisdiction over that. They can’t call it USDA certified organic,” Shaffer said. “But if they grow a tomato, that is under our jurisdiction.”
Wynne said the formal adoption of an all-organic ordinance is not intended to have the city certified organic.
“It’s attractive, for one thing, to people. Another is it puts people on notice who are moving here,” she said.
Kathleen Delate, associate professor with Iowa State University’s Department of Horticulture and Agronomy, said Maharishi Vedic City could likely be the first city in the country to go all organic.
“There have been components of organic used elsewhere,” she said.
For instance, San Francisco has adopted a low pesticide approach in city parks and Santa Cruz, Calif., has an all-organic golf course, she said.
“But as far as 100 percent organic, I think it’s the first,” Delate said. “This will be a great experiment to watch.”
The city, chartered in 2001 by followers of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, banned the sale of non-organic food within city limits in 2003. This just takes it a step further, Wynne said.
Followers of the Maharishi, guru to the Beatles, came to southeast Iowa in the mid 1970s when they bought the former Parsons College campus in Fairfield.
When they founded nearby Maharishi Vedic City, it was decreed that all construction must follow design principles set by the Maharishi for optimum harmony with nature.
The city’s ordinance does not require homeowners to use organic materials in construction, but the design rules do require the use of as few toxic materials as possible, Wynne said.
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