Saturday, July 30, 2011

#64 - Organic Certification - Paperwork Stage

For the past couple of years, we've looked into getting our land organic certified. Since it is raw land and there has not been any interference with it (since 2005) other than the small area in which we camp, it would be perfect. Our land is undisturbed and would be suitable for going organic.

Since there are tight regulations with this organic certification, we want to get a jump-start on the process because once you put anything on that might have to wait three years to get certification as you follow their guidelines to essentially "de-contaminate" the land. However, since our land is sitting in its raw state, for years, this process will be easier to go through, if we start right now.

We have been reading mountains of material and printing another small mountain of reference paperwork and forms related to organic certification. The "National Organic Program" (NOP) is run by the USDA and their website is sometimes a bit of a jumble to navigate. But, that is where we began our research a couple of years ago...

It's not a task that is easily approached, but at this phase in our lives, it is not as daunting.

I found even better details with printable forms for organic certifications at the state site...the Texas Department of Agriculture:

The state site was very organized, clear, easy to navigate; all forms were available and categorized into the area of certification in which you are interested (livestock, crops, etc.).

Since we are getting much closer to the day we will be moving to our acreage full-time, we need to get on the ball with our certification process. Deputy Dave is awesome; he is on board and doing all he can to move forward into this challenging territory. Organic gardening is not unknown to us since all personal gardening in our backyard is done through organic means. My indoor potted plants are treated the normal way, with regular potting soil, but the edible gardens are all organic. And this includes NO pesticides or fertilizers.

My herb garden always does fantastic in all kinds
of weather, after all, herbs are weeds.
Also, a lot of people have an idea of what it means to be "organic," but those ideas are usually not sufficient for organic certification. Going organic means you must change your way of thinking and your actions in farming must reflect that deep change. For years, I was more aware of artificial intervention, but didn't want to do anything about it. Then, Deputy Dave and I began to slowly incorporate changes into our backyard gardening that would allow us to embrace the organic concept.

Part of the problem is that our society is SO afraid of bugs. But, guess what? If you quit using the pesticides, then you just might get some bad bugs, but you also might get a lot of good bugs and things have a way of equalizing. Also, you get WORMS back! The soil is allowed to be soil again!

Even today, I am still learning and I know I've got a LONG way to go, but I'm always eager to learn new things. Staying stale in life is not an option for me. Since I'm an avid reader, I'll do all I can to give Deputy Dave the boost he needs so this chain-reaction can get moving!

Tomato vines burnt by heat exhaustion and drought in Texas
that the Texas Dept. of Agriculture has declared Texas
a "disaster" because of severe drought. We could not
battle the daily heat and dry conditions. We just hope
some of the tomato vines will recover, if the drought ends.
I can tell you one thing above that would NOT be allowed in a certified organic farm...the treated wood that we used to frame out the garden in the above picture is a no-no. Of course, it's been "treated" and that means it should not touch the soil in the organic zone. But, these boards were so old, and Deputy Dave had them in place long before we learned this detail about going COMPLETELY organic. It's a tidbit that we found interesting. Once we get moved to our land and start farming the areas that are organically certified...we can't have any oops moments like we had above with the boards.

Speaking of "organic" products, I remember being amazed that even MANURE has to be "organic." Heck, I thought all poop was "organic," but it turns out that I was wrong. The old adage of "You are what you eat," seems to be true for manure. I guess...whatever goes in, must come out and if inorganic foods are going in, then inorganic matter will be left behind. ....Talk about the cycle of life...

The bottom line is that going organic means you must exert great control over your livestock and crops because one little blip can ruin the organic status. And yes, it is more expensive to start doing things the organic way and it's not as easy to maintain because you cannot just run down to the local store and buy everyday products off the shelf during a half-price sale, but if you are committed, then you find a way to make it work.


Rae said...

When I first started reading, I thought about the livestock thing. I think that would be the most difficult part as far as feeding, etc affecting the organic status. As for fencing, there's a number of trees that make rot resistant fence posts/ building material, etc.

LindaG said...

I'm not worried about getting certified, but I do want the most natural food possible.
That is why I am trying to stop hubby from putting any more weed killer in the main yard.
The pasture is untouched, but he is determined to get rid of the Johnson grass in the main yard (not to mention all the poison ivy).
But I want to stop using the poison because who knows how long it will take to break down and he wants to put a vegetable garden in there.
We figure we have 2 years before retirement at most, so I want to stop using poison now and just deal with it as best we can until we can control it through more regular mowing.
Good luck to you both though! That will be great for you. :)

Anonymous said...

I would think unless you are going to sell something from your farm as organic , there would be no need to actually get 'certified'.
You can do all the practices anyway.
Does it cost anything to get certified, I am wondering? Beth

Lana from Farm Life Lessons said...

Rae - I'll have to explore more of those fencing options -- trees as rot-resistence posts. We don't have a huge variety of trees on our land, but we have hundreds of pines.

Linda - I'm with you -- trying to make the home-grown food as natural as possible is so important. When we have our own veggie garden, it's almost impossible to put something toxic on the food that we'll be harvesting. It really brings the truths of toxins HOME. As for weed control, that is an area that is TOUGH to battle. As for our land, I just don't think we'll be able to adequately battle all of it until we're living there full-time. We both have about the same amount of time left before we move to our land full-time, I guess we'll figure more out the closer we get. I'm excited about your upcoming visit that you'll be making to your land!

Beth --- we might want to sell something to supplement the retirement income, so we better get the organic certification while it's easier rather than waiting. There are fees, but I look at it as an investment, there are also opportunities to get some federal reimbursement. But, the potential for us to fall into a niche of organic farming is beckoning us! For the past few years, we have been observing organic practices, so at least we will be better prepared, but we have a LONG way to go!

Donna OShaughnessy said...

Organic certification is hard work and may not be needed if you are YOUR only customer but if you sell to others the official certifiation makes you accountable. Sadl folks call themselves organic and still use Roundup on their produce or still keep their animals on feed lots. Making yourself open to inspections does keep you honest.