Certification and Recordkeeping

Marcie Rosenzweig fullcircle at jps.net
Fri Jul 19 10:47:04 EDT 2002

Hi Adriana,

My feelings on certification are as follows:

1. If you are a small farmer who's customers and markets are local
and direct and you intend to keep it that way, there is probably no
reason to certify.  This is relationship marketing.  Remember what
you're selling.  If all somebody wants is a tomato or a head of
lettuce, the can get that cheaper and more conveniently at a grocery

2. The anarchist in me believes chain of custody should apply to
input chemicals, the manufacturing process, the applicaton process,
the water run off, the soil depletion. the disposal problems and the
crops coming from poor and subsidized large-scale corporate
agriculture NOT from family-scale sustainable farming.

3.  Having said that, there are many folks who live in areas where
farmers' markets and CSAs and local groceries or co-ops willing to
carry local and regional products are not available to them.  While
the sustainability of large-scale food systems that demand
transporting product - organic or not - over great distances is
questionable at best, should we deprive those same folks of access
given the current structure of the system?  Some sort of
certification -government of not - gives the middle people and the
end-user a comfort level about the "O" word when they can't know the
farmer.  It also gives larger-scale sustainable family farms a market
for their products.

4. I still believe that true organic farming is a way of systems
thinking that takes into account and honors the natural processes and
attempts to mitigate our impacts upon them while producing food and
fiber.  True organic farming is moving toward sustainability.  Input
substitution for a temporary marketing niche advantage is most
assuredly not.

5.  Recordkeeping that gives the producer the management tools to
become increasingly more sustainable is an issue apart from
certification.  Sustainability is the proverbial three-legged stool -
social, economic and resource must all be sustainable.  If writing a
farm plan and keeping detailed records of what seed you bought and
where, what inputs you used and where you got them, what you planted
and where so you can rotate crops, how much of what product you are
going to have and when, as well as what worked and what didn't, moves
you toward sustainability, why wouldn't you do it?  Our margins are
so small that fine-tuning every aspect of our system and checking our
assumptions is the only way the economic leg of our sustainability is
going to happen.

Knowing what is profitable  in which market keeps us economically
viable.  Dropping the bottom 20% of what we grow that isn't making us
money, gives us greater return for our work and more time with our
families - the social leg of the sustainability stool.  How can we
know what is in that 20% without tracking it?  Are you making money
with all your marketing outlets?  How do you know? Are you charging
the same amount for the market that's 10 miles away as the market
thats 50 miles way?  Why?

For those less anal retentive than I, recordkeeping is a grand pain
in the tail.  I just don't know of any other way to get the
information you need to make better decisions. Most of the pain of
recordkeeping is in setting up the original format and inputting the
the first data.  Think about it.  How much does your cropping scheme
change from year to year? 2%?  5%?  10%?  Isn't your farm plan
including your soil building routine and your crop rotation set in
your head for at least three years out?

So if you know what's going on anyway, why write spend that time to
write it down?  I think this is both social and resource.  How
important is your farm and the income it brings to your family?  How
important is your stewardship of the land to your community?  Your
watershed? In the extreme case, if got hit by a bus tomorrow, how
would anyone else know what you know inorder to carry on?  How is the
next land steward going to keep rotations and soil building going?
How will they know where to get the seed for that melon your farm is
famous for? How will they know how much harvest help they'll need and
when?  Honor your family and your land by writing it down.

Anybody interested in Market Farm Forms - Spreadsheet Templates for
Planning and Organizing information on Diversiified Market Farms,
contact me off-list. There are reviews and discussions on it in the
archives and on the net.  Anyone iterested in discussing the kinds of
records to keep to enable good management decisions or the kinds of
management decisions various records can assist you with, let's talk
about it here so everyone can benefit.

Stepping off the soapbox now,

Marcie A. Rosenzweig
Full Circle
3377 Early Times Ln
Auburn, CA 95603-7900
(530) 885-9201

ask about our books:
Market Farm Forms- Spreadsheet Templates
for Planning and Tracking Information on Diversified Market Farms
The New Farmers' Market: Farm-fresh Ideas for Producers, Managers, 
and Communities 

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