Why Organic? Why Certified?
There are many reasons why we must reconsider where our food comes from, how it is grown, how it is distributed, and what health effect our industrial food system has on our perishable bodies. Much has been researched on the harmful effects of pesticides on consumers, field workers and farmers, the effects of industrial and chemically-intensive farming on the soil, the water, and climate change, the centralization of power in a handful of corporations that now own the seeds, the chemicals and the farmers, not to mention the capital intensive nature of this farming and its effects in creating hunger and increased poverty in the “developing” world and in our inner cities and poor rural communities. Additionally, we don’t fully know the effects of genetically modified food on our bodies, for which we serve at the greatest living test animals on the planet. Many countries, including the European Union, have barricaded themselves from the flow of GMO produce and products. Why is the call for GMO labeling so threatening? Is this really healthy? What are we being fed?
For these reasons, WEI has established a farm campus devoted to organic production and production of farmers willing to take the risk of stepping outside the box. Organic farming is now boosted as the fastest growing agricultural market and one that is still available to small family farms, working at best in collaboration with one another. Hence, the infrastructure of the North Circle Project becomes a way to start building that collaboration. Organic produce is grown without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers derived from the oil economy and corporate centralization. Buying local from North Circle means you may get to know your farmer(s), visit their farms and learn to place more trust in our farmers and value of their work and their love for our community.
According to John E. Ikerd, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics, University of Missouri Columbia:
“Organic farmers do not have to become a part of the industrialized food system. Organic farmers can join with other small farmers in developing an alternative food system that can coexist with, and someday displace, the global-industrial, corporately-controlled food system. Independent organic farmers may well lose the battle to keep industrial agribusiness from dominating the mass production and mass distribution of organic foods. But, smaller, organic farmers can still compete effectively for the fast-growing and profitable organic niche markets – both locally and internationally. And more important, small-scale organic farming can be carried out by means that are ecologically and socially sustainable over the long run, whereas, industrial organic production cannot. The sustainable agriculture movement offers the best hope for the future success of small-scale, independent organic producers.”
–The Architecture of Organic Production
Local and Organic: The Double Bind of “local” or “organic”
Often we hear that we have to make a choice between local or organic, that we have local produce that is not organic and organic produce from California or elsewhere. You cannot have it both ways. WEI and the North Circle Project aim to close down this artificial gap by developing a network of local farmers dedicated to organic production and local distribution. You should not have to make this choice between organic or local – you can refuse to do so as a consumer to help all of us create a local and sustainable organic food system.
When a farmer sells you food for your body, there must be a covenant of trust and integrity inside the intimacy of this human bond. You can know this is present if you know your farmer(s) and their farming practices and trust their word or if you grow your own food. Who has the time to visit every farm your food comes from and get to know every farmer who feeds you and your family? Not all of us have the time or land to grow our own food. Third party certification is a good way to ensure this trust and integrity and greater security in knowing the farms that serve you adhere to national standards for organic farming. This involves third party review of what is happening on farm, which requires careful record keeping, on-site visits from third party inspectors, and verification that the farming practices meet all of the qualifications for organic farming, including organic seed sourcing, approved amendments, good soil, pest and plant health management, good food handling practices, avoidance no GMO seeds or radiation, coloration, preservatives or added chemicals on the food products, avoidance of field sludge or synthetic petro-based chemicals on the fields, and a demonstrated commitment to sustainable ecological agricultural practices.
A second reason to certify is that organic farming the growing economic sector and demand for organic producers and their products is on the rise. Why should we keep organic farms hidden behind inaccurate numbers as if the strength and wisdom of localized organic farming is the best-kept secret outside the box? We as organic farmers and market gardeners are strong and growing fast in numbers – let the AG CENSUS reflect the challenge that the organic farming economic sector brings our industrial food system. Let it advertise that there is an alternative.
The WEI farm – at Amador Hill Farm and Orchard – is a four-season organically certified farm, certified annually by the Midwest Organic Services Association for all the produce we grow. When we sell to coops and distributers a copy of our certification record is required. As a consumer, look for the USDA seal on products which are officially organically certified, and on WEI produce/products the MOSA seal of organic certification. Warning: “natural” does not mean “organically certified” — consumers beware.