Earth Eats radio show recently interviewed me about our decision to pursue USDA organic certification. Reporter Hayley Grossman’s thoughtful questions provoked me to do some deeper thinking on the subject, and I wanted to take a stab at explaining the bigger picture here.
As she stressed in the piece, organic farming for us is definitely about the soil. But more than that, it’s about improving the health of the farm’s ecosystem as a whole. That includes the soil, as well as the surrounding woods, the water, the air, and all the animal life that makes its home on our 21 acres. It also includes the farmers (us!), plus our neighbors. Finally, we hope that by providing highly nutritious food to our larger community, we also help ensure their health, too.
When we first started considering certification, we thought of it primarily from a business perspective: we felt being certified would be an efficient way to convey to potential customers how we grow. However, as we studied the National Organic Standards, something bigger started to become clear. Despite 68 pages of legal mumbo-jumbo and technical detail, we saw an effort to encourage a way of farming that ensures health. The things that tend to get the spotlight in discussions about organic certification, like the record-keeping and what inputs can and can’t be used, are merely a means to an end: health. The standard may not be perfect, but we think the goal sure is.
Yeah, we could work towards that goal without being certified. But we want to put a stake in the ground, to make a public commitment to this way of farming. And we want to help the broader organic farming community thrive by purchasing seeds, fertilizers, and inputs from others who have made the same public commitment.
So that’s why we decided to pursue organic certification.