Sorry guys, no newsletter this week. But we do have this piece of cool news from Ted:
The organic inspector came on Tuesday. Inspections, which precede certification, take place annually. The inspector and I toured our packing shed to make sure questions of food safety had been adequately addressed; we looked over the equipment in our barn to make sure it contained all the tools necessary to the practice of organic farming; and we checked out our inventory of biological pesticides. We walked all over our farm, and talked at length about our farming practices. The organization that we are certified by – Certified Naturally Grown – wants to know how we manage insects when we cannot use insecticides (primarily through crop rotation and the use of biologicals, I told them). They want to how we deal with diseases when we can’t use fungicides or bactericides (again, primarily through crop rotation, but also through use of disease-resistant cultivars, good sanitation, and occasional copper sprays, I explained). They want to know how we control weeds without the use of herbicides (crop rotation plays a role here, too, as does cover cropping and the use of transplants, I said, but our primary tools are tractor cultivating, hand hoeing, and mulching). And they want to know how we grow vegetables without the use of synthetic fertilizers (I told them we use compost, primarily, along with a few approved soil amendments and cover crops).
When done well, the farm inspection is a learning opportunity. Chuck, the inspector, and I shared ideas about varieties (he told me that the first good tomato varieties with resistance to late blight are just a year away), crop production practices (I showed him our onions on biodegradable mulch), and equipment (we both marveled at our new stone burier).
Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) uses a farmer-to-farmer approach to certification. The inspectors are member-farmers or Extension agents. Chuck, a farmer (and, as it turns out, part time Extension agent) from the next county south inspected our farm. The rationale behind the farmer-to farmer approach to inspection is simple. As CNG farmers, we have a vested interest in maintaining the integrity of the program – we won’t want it to be spoiled by allowing non-organic farmers to make false claims. We know how hard and expensive it is to farm organically – it would be foolish for us to let non-organic growers slip through. We can tell the difference between an organic and a conventional farm – we won’t be easily duped. Every CNG farmer is expected to inspect another member farm, but not the farm belonging to the farmer who inspected his farm.
We have always farmed organically. Certification means that you needn’t take just our word for it. It means that we are part of a growing community of farmers committed to organic farming practices.