Why USDA Organic Certification?
The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) established the National Organic Program in 1990 in an attempt to regulate a growing movement that was seeking to raise food in more "natural," less chemically intensive ways. USDA Organic Certification is a means of assuring that growers who claim to grow "organically" are actually doing so. It is meant to protect the consumer and the integrity of our understanding of what "organic" means.
Under the program, farmers who are certified Organic need to keep intensive records of everything from specific inputs to harvest yields and sales numbers. They are banned from using chemical herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers, and furthermore must establish farming practices that encourage biodiversity, establish rules for the humane raising of animals, and promote sustainable systems for soil, water, and the environment. Certified Organic farms are inspected annually by trained and certified inspectors. The process of acquiring and maintaining organic certification is time-intensive and relatively expensive.
Making the choice to become organically certified has been a long time coming for my farm! I have always grown in accordance with the basic rules of organic agriculture, and have taken a holistic approach that goes beyond simply avoiding toxic chemical inputs and focuses on healthy sustainable natural systems. I believe that this form of agriculture can help protect not only our environment but our health and the health of our communities.
For years this has been enough, but as my farm grows I find myself marketing my produce to consumers who can't just go walk my fields to "see for themselves." I also believe deeply in the need to protect the integrity of genuinely "organic" agriculture. Too many corporations and individuals throw around the word "natural" or even "organic" without meaning it, in order to gain some benefit from the success of the organic movement. When I say that "I grow organically" it is not some watered down convenient version that allows for chemical fertilizers or herbicides when things get challenging. When I say that I NEVER use chemical herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers, I want my customers to be fully assured that I mean NEVER.