Don't stop at "Is it Organic?"
Do we use insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, or other such chemicals? NO (whether allowed under the "Certified Organic" label or otherwise)
Our Approach: Life Affirming Farming
We do everything feasible to have the healthiest possible soil and to promote the natural defenses of the plants; this includes:
- Adding compost to boost biological activity and to increase soil organic matter
- Soil testing to identify and address macro and trace mineral deficiencies
- Growing cover crops to add nutrients, retain nutrients, add organic matter, prevent erosion, and cover the soil
- Using mulches such as straw/hay to cover the soil in order to prevent erosion and soil degradation, retain moisture, and discourage weeds
- Rotating our crops to disrupt pest insect cycles
- Providing habitat for beneficial insects, to increase the populations of insects that will naturally pray on the pests.
We hand squish bugs.
We will, and do, let crops fail when the insect pressure is overwhelming.
We use physical barriers (woven covers) to keep insects off the plants for some crops.
We do not use any pesticides, fungicides, herbicides or any other "-cides", whether approved by organic standards or not.
Are we certified organic? No. Why? Because we believe that our approach, outlined above, is healthier and more sustainable, and we wish to differentiate between our approach and what is labeled organic.
A New York Times article titled "Has 'Organic' Been Oversized?" from Sunday, July 8, 2012 describes some of the problems with the Organic label.
More on Conventional versus Certified Organic Agriculture
The line between a "Certified Organic" and a "Conventional" grower is quite blurred. The arsenal to attack and to attempt to conquer nature is quite similar in the two approaches. Both use pesticides, the difference being the source they're derived from (natural source for organic, versus chemically constructed for conventional). However, damage to non-targeted insect populations is often the same or worse in "Certified Organic" agriculture. Both kinds of pesticides have negative effects on the health of the environment, and we believe on human health as well. We have heard one formerly organic producer say that he stopped being organic because he felt that conventional system pesticides are more targeted to individual pests, and less destructive to other insect populations and to the environment. NOTE: we don't believe in using any pesticides at all, whether conventional or allowed under Organic certification. We do believe that pest and weed problems can be handled through attention to soil fertility and a balanced ecosystem.
A discussion about controlling leaf hopper at a farmers' conference amongst "Organic" producers was representative of the "Certified Organic" approach. The natural insecticide pyrethrum (trade name Pyganic) was recommended. Although being a "natural" product, Nature does not have a cloud of it being sprayed over thousands of square feet by the flower that naturally produces it. A farmer at the conference stated, "Most of the spray goes floating off and doesn't even make it onto the target plant." This insecticide kills on contact and is known to kill beneficial insects such as honeybees, bumblebees, and wasps, and most likely countless other beneficial insects. ALL discussions at the conference involved involved long lists of chemicals (approved for certified organic), therefore I ask the question, what does organic mean?
At this point, as a family, we still buy organic foods when we need somethings that we don't grow ourselves. We do this because Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are not allowed in organic production, whereas for conventional food, there is no way of knowing if it is GMO free or not (labeling is not required). This distinction is important to us. In addition, there are certain practices required by Organic Standards that are better than what many conventionally producers do.
The main point is that Certified Organic is not a panacea. As described above, many Certified Organic producers use a similar approach to Conventional producers. The "organic" label itself does not guarantee very much. We believe that it is better to talk to the farmer who grows our food and ask the important questions (such as what they do or do not spray, how they handle soil fertility, do they use GMOs, etc), directly. We certainly do not want to stop at "Are you Organic?"