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another farm certification layer is needed!  RSS feed

 
Marianne Cicala
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I have a farm; a USDA certified farm. "Certified Organic" has lost it's appeal to me; it's quickly become smoke & mirrors allowing industrial mono-culture farming to glean the seal from 1000 miles away packing WalMart shelves. I won't even get started on the USDA "black" aka almost all organic label. "Certified Natural" with participants certifying one another, without independent oversight doesn't do it for me either. Searching for "clean grown" seems to mainly target marijuana growers. I did find this formal "Homegrown" movement, but I can only find in Montana: http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/100/ . I bust it to have a farm with no bagged or bottled additives, have a permaculture approach and expanding on that. Please please help me find what I know must be out there - enough is enough already.
 
John Polk
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Have you looked at CNG: Certified Naturally Grown
Each farm is peer reviewed, but to keep it honest, they have added the stipulation: If I review your farm, you cannot review my farm. Keeps two buddies from 'helping' each other.

With the USDA's watering down the meaning of 'organic' so that BigAg can join the party, while making it harder for true organic farms to 'meet the standards', I find CNG to be a viable option.

Is it perfect? No. But probably better than what the USDA has "given" us.

If I buy a property, that hasn't already been certified "O", and it is in a location far from an inspection agency, I am screwed trying to get certified. Somebody needs to fly into the nearest airport, rent a hotel room and have dinner. In the morning, they will rent a car (after breakfast) to come inspect me. They will undoubtedly have lunch some where, and possibly dinner and another night in the hotel. If I cannot prove the prior operations on the land, this process may go on for 3 years. And, I am paying for his/her expenses each time they come...have you ever seen somebody on an expense account ever being frugal? I could have well over $5,000 tied up before I could ever hope to sell a single radish that would have to compete with every other "O" radish on the market.

 
Marianne Cicala
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Hey John -
Being in southern VA where organic tobacco is BIG business, I was able to tag onto their inspector and it's more economical. In addition, the USDA has annual grants for reimbursement for the expense of inspection which is truly a 1 pager - I've gotten 100% reimbursement for the past 4 years (being a grant it's taxable, but the expense is deductible so that's a wash) . In this area, are all of 3 Certified Natural growers, ranchers. I appreciate the certification mandates, but do not feel most are qualified to OK each other around here and there's nothing as far as "what" can/can't. I know them well, appreciate what they are doing, but there's a big BUT. I'm hoping there's something getting kicked around as a 3rd party certification - or maybe our growing band of permies can come up with something.
 
John Polk
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...or maybe our growing band of permies can come up with something.

I think that what 'we' need to come up with is a "Beyond Organic" certification.
However, it took a full generation for 'organic' to become a household word (and less than that for it to become an almost meaningless term). I certainly agree that it needs to be taken to the next level up, as I know that there is produce in the market that is probably better for us than some of the stuff that has the big O label on it.

Right now, I try to look beyond the labels. After all, crude oil is 'All Natural'.

 
Marianne Cicala
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Always loved that term - although in the day of abbreviations, don't know if B.O. sound appealing
 
Hal Terran
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http://www.demeter-usa.org/for-farmers/certification.asp

demeter biodynamic certification is extremely rigorous. there is a biodynamic farm in my area and their produce is the best I've tasted by far, and I buy and eat quite a varied lot.
 
Paul Ewing
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Location: Boyd, Texas
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Personally I think that certifications are really only needed if you plan to sell wholesale where the customer isn't dealing directly with you or does not have any contact where you can explain your program and the benefits. For a certification to get enough traction to be meaningful in the swamp of competing labels, it needs to be watered down and have loopholes in it that leads to what we have with the current Big O standards.
 
Marianne Cicala
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Hal Terran wrote:http://www.demeter-usa.org/for-farmers/certification.asp

demeter biodynamic certification is extremely rigorous. there is a biodynamic farm in my area and their produce is the best I've tasted by far, and I buy and eat quite a varied lot.


Thanks Hal - I've contacted them. I'll keep you posted.
 
Peter Ellis
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Location: Central New Jersey
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The thing about certification is that it is all about marketing. Which means if you manage to get some traction with a certification in the marketplace, the bigger fish come and take it away from you.

Witness "Organic".
 
Topher Belknap
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Location: Midcoast Maine (zone 5b)
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I think ALL of these certifications are exactly backwards.

What we really need is a certificate for each and every chemical used near food, for anything, certifying that it is safe for humans, soil, animals, and beneficial insects. That certification must travel with the food and be present on each label all the way to the consumer.

Food produced without the use of any chemicals would, of course, need no certification.

The current system punishes (with red tape, etc.) the farmers that are doing things correctly. It is a scam by the chemical companies to impose costs on their competitors.

Thank You Kindly,
Topher
 
Marianne Cicala
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I completely agree Topher, but unfortunately it's a population of label buyers and not enough people read past the sticker. Our farm is a "closed system" aka nothing goes on our dirt, on our plants etc that doesn't come from the farm. I have chatted with the bio-diver. folks, it is far more stringent that C.O. in that a closed system is used. We are a for profit farm and although I raise plenty of hell with the USDA and EPA I have to work within the system to make a living. Without question, the current system is designed for confusion and unless you are knee deep into it, you are often mislead as a consumer.
 
Kelly Smith
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Marianne Cicala wrote:I completely agree Topher, but unfortunately it's a population of label buyers and not enough people read past the sticker.

this will never change if farms are constantly seeking certification and not explaining to customers WHY they arent cerified

Marianne Cicala wrote: Our farm is a "closed system" aka nothing goes on our dirt, on our plants etc that doesn't come from the farm. I have chatted with the bio-diver. folks, it is far more stringent that C.O. in that a closed system is used.


IMO, your challenge is to explain to your customers WHY you are better than "Certified Organic" and why "organic" doesnt mean what they think it means.

to me, if you are using no inputs that is FAR FAR beyond organic.


i dont think another certification (which can be co-opted again) is the answer. customer education and awareness is how this should be fixed.


edited to add:
my farm receives no govt subsides, and this is one of our marketing items. (may not be a big issue in your area)
we also are a no spray farm, this goes far beyond the "industrial organic" rules and this is what i have to explain to the customer so they understand why we charge what we charge.
most people, once they know what we are doing are lifetime customers. they realize we are just farming "organically" because of the premium, we do it because we feel this is the right way to raise food.
market your food as food with integrity, youll be surprised how far that will get you

hope this helps.
 
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