I always want to respond to that question with a snarky, “Yes, we
are carbon based life forms.” But, black humor aside, the question can
really be many questions….. Do you wish to know “are the fruits,
vegetables, flowers and nuts you produced USDA Certified Organic?” Or
perhaps “do you spray harmful chemicals?” Or even “How, exactly, do you
grow your plants?” “How ‘green’ are you?” “How ‘sustainable’ are you?”
here goes my attempt to frame an answer to questions that encompass
many complex issues. Explanations of this kind invariably feel like
they are a backed-into-the-corner defense of any practice that I choose
(with good reason) that a committee somewhere else disagrees with, but
so be it. What is written here applies to all products except the Green
Man Almonds we grow and sell in partnership with Scofield Farms. While
there is 95% overlap, I won’t use this space to elaborate the other 5%
as this page would get too confusing.
I adamantly refuse to
pursue USDA Organic certification, so, unless I get hit on the head and
lose all perspective, this farm will never carry The Paper. I have been
gardening organically (whoops, I’m not legally allowed to say that) for
30 years, and grew vegetables without sprays
long before the word “organic” was even widely known by consumers. I
have had my nose in Rodale books since I was 12 years old. I am
completely offended that the word “organic” is now owned by the USDA,
and that we can’t use that word in the lexicon to describe our growing
Our domestic organic program is frankly a joke–imports come in all the
time from countries like China (where meaningful supervision of a
complex agricultural program is impossible) that are “certified
organic”. Mega-farms that rape nature and do not use any sort
of sustainable practices yet adhere to the letter of the law are
“certified organic”. There is completely insufficient oversight, and in
my opinion, consumers are likely being cheated out of their food
dollars unless they have been able to forge a personal relationship
with the farms, farmers and businesses growing and supplying their
food. And as a last mention, airborne drift from non-organically
managed areas and chemicals present in the water make it next to
impossible, in our industrial age, to have a truly organic farm in the
vast majority of places on the planet. One would have to be blessed
with miles and miles of distance from any other agricultural activity,
mountain spring water, and land previously untouched by human hands.
And even then, some part-per-million or billion of something bad would
still have floated in on the atmosphere, if one looked hard enough. We
no longer are able to have purity, we can only attempt mitigation.
I do not spray my plants with any insecticides that are not OMRI
certified, and even then, I apply them only in dire need and after a
lot of research. In all the
time I’ve farmed I’ve only used products once on some corn with
earworms (Bt) and once on four grapevines with leafhoppers (Neem Oil).
I crush harmful insects by hand, make bottle traps of water, corn oil
and bacon grease or fruit, and allow a certain number of chickens free
reign of the property in order to further control problem insects. I
use liquid copper as
a fungicide on my stone fruit orchard during dormant season.
addition to flaming, mowing, hoeing and hand weeding, In the past, we used glyphosate
type herbicides only, if there were severe weed problems. This this choices was made based on the data available at the time and also after talking to people who are experts in chemistry and toxicology. But in the last year (2011) I began to hear science based objections to how these kinds of herbicides interact with soil nutrients. Multiple wees have also developed resistance to this class of product. So we have abandoned any use of them. When in dire need, we have switched to a product whose active ingredient is paraquat, which does not have these objectionable issues. It is applied minimally and carefully when used. And frankly,
I run this farm largely alone. My plants
would be starved for nutrition if I allowed the weeds to take over, and
until I can afford better equipment or attract hordes of volunteers, it
means of last resort. If I still had a small garden, I would hand weed.
But when you get past 2 acres and counting, and have an income that is
not presently allowing for a big equipment budget, there has to be
approach. That being said, I am open-minded to
considering any legitimate, scientifically based concern about a
farming practice, but I won’t make growing decisions based on fearful,
unfounded hearsay. Our gardens are flush with honeybees, native bees,
butterflies, eathworms, ladybugs, lacewings, and praying mantises…a
population of beneficial insects cannot thrive in areas that have been
Fertilizer: I use organic and some
conventional fertilizers (we mostly “fertigate” or deliver fertilizer
via drip irrigation. The only synthetic ones I can think of are the CAN
products (calcium and nitrogen) which are used on occasion. There is a
liquid organic formulation that is delievered through the water. It is
customized to the soil profile in this area, and multiple, weak amounts
are injected well over 15 times per season. This allows the plants to
uptake what they need over time, and we have no accumulations in the
soils (which are tested annually). I have also used high quality
compost, rock dust, and products from Gardens Alive! although the
latter has become somewhat unaffordable as we’ve increased in size.
Seedlings and starts are fed with liquid kelp via a spray bottle.
Fungicide: We have never needed to use these anywhere.
basic practices on this farm include using mulch (wheat straw),
interplanting flowers with vegetables,
rotating crops, growing nitrogen fixing crops, beekeeping, promoting a
good population of beneficial insects and native pollinators by
minimizing soil disturbance and saving and distributing seed for
borders of plants that aid in attracting and maintaining beneficials,
increasing use of flame control and mowing of weeds in winter, and
continual learning and researching in order to identify and implement
good practices we are not already doing.
I personally believe that much more than looking for a “USDA Organic ”
label on the box, we
desperately need to get back to buying and eating local foods that have
been raised in a sustainable manner as part of a larger
solution to our food issues. All my current clients know what my
they can come here at any time and see for themselves, they know me,
and are personally comfortable with how their food is raised here. What
we do may not satisfy everyone’s personal requirements, and that’s OK.
I’d rather be honest and give an open explanation of the Whats and Whys
of our decisionmaking, and allow transparency for our
customers….informed decisionmaking should not have to be the struggle
that it so often is.