market-farming digest: "Final Rule"
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.
Ash Grove Community Farm & Center for Sustainable Living
now working 250 miles from home to keep my farm alive, go figger
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