It was always something we wanted to do but never really needed to. We were already following organic farming guidelines and teaching our farmers sustainable methods. And when we moved onto Moraine Farm last March, the fallow fields gave us the opportunity to skip the normal three-year transition period and had us in a good state for organic farming. We knew it would ultimately benefit our incubator farmers, so we went for it.
Now several weeks later we are pleased to announce that New Entry Sustainable Farming Project has officially received its Baystate Organic Certification, which also certifies us to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s organic regulations. Now we can say the produce we grow is certified organic, even though it always has been. This means no unnatural substances or genetically modifying seeds will be used in the process of growing our food. From what’s placed around the soil and what goes in it, to how we treat and handle our crops. It’s all natural.
Ultimately, this one-year certification doesn’t change anything except the way we explain ourselves. It will have no impact on how we grow our food, but now we can label it “certified organic.”
While it may be no big deal to us, for consumers of food it’s an issue. More than ever, people want to know where their food comes from, how it was grown, and what’s been done to it. So farms have been quickly attempting to gain the organic status, even though some compliance methods can be up for interpretation and are sometimes criticized, especially around the giant food producers.
And for smaller farmers who may be even be farming organic already, pursuing certification can be too much work to invest in. This may put them at a disadvantage at the grocery store, but the process can seem too daunting. The hardest thing is the paperwork.
Some of the records required in the organic application process include fertilization logs, seed purchase records, weed management plans, water quality tests, and planting and harvest records. Even though most farmers will gripe about these recordkeeping aspects, we are huge proponents of it given that it just makes good farm business sense. Knowing someone is going to be looking over your shoulder can be great motivation to do it well. And ultimately the farm and community are better for it.
While the entire New Entry farmland is under one “certificate,” each incubator plot is considered its own “field”. In a year when an incubator farmer is on a specific field, that field will be removed from our certificate. If an incubator farmer wants to pursue organic certification that covers only their field, they can apply on their own but will be able to bypass the three-year transition period. This is because they are considered an independent farm business (each plot is their own sole proprietorship) and need to keep and maintain their own recordkeeping.