market-farming digest: "Final Rule"

Dori Green dorigreen00 at hotmail.com
Sun Dec 24 09:07:28 EST 2000


As somebody who served on a local organic certification board serving 
multiple states, I can tell you why the regulations are necessary.

Certification as a way to prevent fraud is useless.  But it gives a good 
illusion of doing something to prevent fraud.

Fraud in the exploding "organic" marketplace is ridiculously easy.  And lots 
and lots of money is involved.  So it's probably also inevitable.

I can't even get the local farmer's market managers to boot out the old guys 
whose closest connection to a real farm is that they backed up their pickup 
to a wholesale loading dock.  How far do you think I'd get them or any of 
the affiliated programs such as WIC and Cooperative Extension to back a 
serious effort to police "organic certification" and the ethics and morals 
of the people going for it?

The truth is that nobody wants to police other people's ethics and morals.  
I sure know that I don't want that job -- I have a hard enough time working 
on my own (at least when they knock heads against convenience)!  It would be 
the easiest thing in the world to put a premium price on the potatoes grown 
here, be a little lazy about my growing practices, and fill in a spindly 
crop by backing my own pickup to the wholesale dock -- and of course selling 
the whole truckload as "certified organic".  Unless there's an inspector at 
my farm 24/7, who's to know?  And I'd cry about the need to compromise my 
principles -- all the way to the bank.

No, of course I wouldn't do that.  Neither would most of the farmers doing 
the work to become certified organic, I'll bet.  But let's not be naive 
enough to assume that nobody would do this to make an extra buck or thirty, 
especially if it means the difference between paying the mortgage or being 
short again that month.

That's why I dropped my own farm's certification and why I bring up this 
issue directly when I make my CSA recruiting pitch to church and parent 
groups.  A piece of paper does not guarantee that food has been grown in 
accordance with the principles and practices of sustainable agriculture.  
Knowing your farmer isn't a guarantee either, but it sure helps.  So do 
regular visits to the farm -- something that isn't always possible on large 
farms, even organic ones.

Lots of people at high levels in the food biz talk about "economies of 
scale".  When we consider the gut and spirit level connections between farms 
and communities, there will always be a place for small farms even if it's 
just as a place where people can go to see what they used to be like and can 
grieve for what we've lost.

Dori Green
Ash Grove Community Farm & Center for Sustainable Living
Corning, NY
http://www.ic.org/agrove.htm

now working 250 miles from home to keep my farm alive, go figger

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