Monday, July 14, 2008

Do you grow your vegetables organically?

Growing "organically" as the term was coined in the 1940's in England and 1960's in the US, originally meant supporting the whole ecosystem that plants thrive and develop most naturally in, primarily by building the soil using natural (not synthetic) amendments like compost and manures. It also meant not using high doses of isolated chemicals such as synthetic nitrogen to superficially boost plant growth at the expense of plant health and nutrition or the health of the farm ecosystem as a whole. In principle, it meant that when farmers supported the health of the environment that plants grew in, the result would be the healthiest and most nutritious plants.

Since federalization of the National Organic Standards, the word "organic" has now become a legal term indicating compliance with USDA National Organic Program standards developed and regulated generally with large agribusiness in mind. Now, farmers cannot use the term "organic" in its original sense without legal ramifications. This in effect has changed the implications of the term "organic" for those who grow your vegetables and herbs according to the above principles which are among the same general practices that the organic standards aim to enforce.

For clarification, we grow all naturally (using only soil amendments that at least would be USDA Certified Organic) but are not pursuing "USDA Organic Certification". All natural means we only use "organic" fertilizers in the form of fish and seaweed emulsion, prepared manures, and compost. Pest control is mainly mechanical, for example, row covers over emerging seedlings until they are big enough to outgrow any pest damage. Our experience has been that pests take over only when plants and soil are unhealthy, or the crop is simply done for the season. We respect the natural cycle of the plant. Our focus is supporting biodiversity and contributing to the saving of endangered varities by favoring heirloom and open pollinated varieties, and growing wholistically by integreting organic and biodynamic (see and co-creative science techniques (see ). We're happy to provide more info at your request.

This from Matthew Moore: I also am the manager of my family's conventional farm which surrounds the all natural parcel. In regards to the pesticide and herbicide use surrounding the 2 acres it is something we take very seriously. We are not certified through the USDA. We aim to grow at and above their standards. For example, the USDA along with the other 15 organizations which you can be certified through require a minimum of 30 feet of distance between the organic and conventional crops, we are well outside of that measurement. That being said, I am not very comfortable with the magical 30 feet of air that is supposed to diffuse anything put down on those opposing field, so as a farm manager I demand that nothing be sprayed within 100" of the field as well as stopping spraying with any wind drift conditions that may endanger soil or crops. I also plan for the placement of crops around the all natural field which use little to no pesticides and herbicides, ie: radishes. (being a short-term crop those 'tools' are not as necessary). We do not use any weed control on the surrounding ditches other than a hoe or a tractor disc. We take these concerns very seriously and appreciate your taking the time to ask about these issues.

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