I met a farm worker last week that told me she was working at a conventional farm and they were spraying fungicide on the green beans while she was harvesting them. That means those beans were covered in chemicals the same day those beans were sold to someone to eat. Her body was also covered with those chemicals, without her permission. Yet at farmers market, this farmer claims to be almost as good as organic!
Be wary of those kinds of statements. Get educated about the food you eat, the farmers you buy from and ask LOTS of questions about their farming practices. Do they put chemical fertilizer in the water to irrigate? Do they add nitrogen, potassium, or phosphate (N,P,K) to the soil? Do they use GMO or biotech seeds? Ask if you can visit their farm. Stone Coop Farm welcomes visitors!
There are great, chemical free farms out there that are not certified organic. Those great farmers that grow healthy food will share the details about how they grow their crops and raise their animals. You will probably get a fantastic lesson on how to do it right, but you have to ask.
Stone Coop Farm goes through an annual organic certification process and here are the basic steps.
During the application process and onsite inspection, the organic inspector looks through all our paperwork. First they check, by looking at the seed packets, where we purchased the seeds to verify they are not GMO seeds and that they have not been treated with chemicals to help them germinate. Next they check all the things we use to grow our seeds or anything we add to the soil. We have to keep those bags and receipts. They want to find out where we get potting soil, compost, manure, etc.
They also check to see what we do for pest and disease management – do we spray for bugs or mold and what products do we use. There are approved chemicals for organic applications, but I don’t believe that if you have to wear a mask to spray them, that they can be healthy for me or my crops. So this question is super easy for us because we use no chemicals at Stone Coop Farm – so our answer is NONE.
Next they look at all our records for the crops:
Lastly they walk the property with me so I can show them exactly where everything is grown and verify it matches with the field map of the crops I provided.
We track everything at the farm so we can answer these questions. Part of the process is to verify we are not buying someone else’s crops and selling them as certified organic.
You may think – what a pain in the butt! My response is, these records make me a better farmer. I can tell you exactly how many peppers I got off of my Islander pepper plants, where I sold them, and how much money I collected. I can also tell you which crops didn’t produce well and which ones were more susceptible to pests and diseases. I then adjust our crop plan each year to become a better, wiser and more profitable farmer.
Isn’t this how all smart and sustainable businesses operate? Identify what isn’t working and fix it?
And one last point. If a non-certified organic farmer says it costs thousands of dollars to get certified organic and they cannot afford it, let me clarify Stone Coop Farm’s actual costs for the certification process. We are certified through OEFFA (Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association). They charge a flat fee of $1000. It is not based on sales. The USDA has a cost share program for all certified organic farms. They send us a check for $750 each year. So our actual certification cost to become certified organic is only $250 annually, not thousands of dollars.
It is also worth noting that conventional farms have no reporting requirements and are not inspected. They can spray as many chemicals as they please without anyone verifying how they have grown their crops. In fact over 60 billion tons of chemicals are used by conventional farms in the U.S. every year. Only 1% of all U.S. farmland is certified organic, and they have to jump through federally mandated requirements to prove they don’t use chemicals.
Recommended Viewing: I recently watch a documentary on Hulu called In Organic We Trust by Kiplin Pastor. It covered a full range of topics involving organic, conventional, small farm and big agribusiness, and the food we feed our children in schools. It was very informative about what does organic mean and can it be trusted.
Did You Know that according to the Great Lakes Region of the USDA, in Michigan 92% of all our corn and 95% of all our soybeans are genetically modified? Because there is so much controversy about GMO’s or genetically modified organisms, they have changed the name to “biotechnology varieties” or “biotech” crops. The only way to absolutely ensure that you are not eating chemicals or biotech/GMO crops is to buy certified organic. Here is a one minute video with quick tips to help you buy non GMO foods http://nongmoshoppingguide.com/