Why Not Organic?
For years our farm has been certified organic. In 2016, we let our organic certification expire. Now, when people ask if we are “organic”, our answer is not as simple as it used to be. We remain committed to the principles of organic agriculture, but have chosen not to remain certified for the following reasons:
- We believe the government is not the best determiner and definer of what constitutes organic. Unfortunately the USDA has a history of being “bought” and controlled by large corporations (such as Monsanto). Even the NOSB (National Organic Standards Board) can cave to corporate pressure. A simple example: Right now hydroponics can be certified organic. Hydroponics don’t even use soil! Organics has always focused on the health of the soil, but yet, according to current standards, plants which never even see soil can be certified (most of the organic berries you buy in the store are hydroponically grown - along with many of the organic tomatoes and much of the lettuce). We believe the organic movement was truer to it’s “roots” before the government commandeered the term.
- Although we agree with most of the organic standards, there are a few areas where we take issue. Another simple example: According to the rules, if you have soil tests that document a deficiency in minerals, you are allowed to amend the soil to address the deficiency. But, who wants to just barely get out of deficiency? We want to remineralize our soils and bring them up to ideal levels. But, we can’t legally do that because we no longer have a deficiency! Another example (which makes no sense to me): Using plastic to cover the soil is perfectly allowable in organic agriculture (as long as you remove it every year). But, using a biodegradable plastic made from non-GMO corn starch is not allowed (because you can’t remove it at the end of the year - there’s nothing left to remove). Which is better for the environment? Again, most of the rules are fine, but some seem arbitrary and inconsistent.
- Although record-keeping is an important part of any farm, and should be done whether certified or not, there are certain requirements of the USDA Organic program that seem onerous to me (admittedly, I detest paperwork). Another example: You are required to use organic seed, unless the variety you are wanting is not available as organic. Then you can use untreated, conventional seed. But, you have to be able to document that you searched multiple seed sources for organic options before buying non-organic seed. Then there’s the compost pile example: If you have any manure sources in your compost, you have to monitor and record the temperature of your pile and turn it so many times within so many days while keeping the temperature up above so many degrees (all documented, of course) in order to use the compost. It just seems a little over-the-top to us.
- Finally, although there are government subsidies to help off-set the cost of certification, it is still an added expense and an added layer of complexity that we decided we no longer need to fool with.
We believe our customers are the best “certifiers.” Customers are encouraged to come out to the farm and inspect it whenever they would like. We are always available to answer questions on any of our growing practices. There are no secrets here. The bottom line is that we grow the way we do because we want to eat as healthfully as possible. Our customers are invited to join us in savoring the bounty!