What is Ecoganic?

We are deeply committed to the fundamental principles of sustainable agriculture: ecological soundness, economic viability, and social responsibility. As stewards of the land, our job is to make this land better than we found it, to provide nutritious delicious food, and to be good neighbors and citizens. Thus we farm our land using natural amendments, our specially made super deluxe controlled microbial compost (CMC), winter cover crops, crop rotation, and summer green manure crops. We use only natural methods (no synthetic/chemical sprays) to avoid and manage insects, weeds, and diseases. Our strategy with farming is the same as with our own bodies: preventing problems through healthy practices. Just as one might eat well, exercise plenty, drink lots of water, and get a good night’s sleep; we do all we can to enrich and enliven our soils so that our plants have every opportunity to thrive. We choose to call this style of agriculture Ecoganic.

To Be or Not to Be… Certified

(reprinted from the November 18-19, 2003 CSA newsletter [PDF])

After many months of deliberation and a tiny bit of hair pulling and heart wrenching, we have decided to try NOT being certified organic. The important part of that statement is that we will drop our certification, not our being organic. But, by law now, if we do not continue to be certified by an accredited third party certification agency, then we are not allowed to use the “o” word anymore. We plan to continue farming the same way, or better, than we always have. Here’s how we got to this new place…

We’ve been certified since 1990. The process was through a Virginia farmers organization, then through the state.

Basically, the process of certification has become tougher, more complicated, much more expensive, and more painful. The paperwork burden has increased dramatically. We are supposed to be able to show on paper where any random tomato found in your bag was grown—exactly which patch—and everything that happened to that plant from seeding in the greenhouse, to transplanting, hoeing, mulching, staking, harvesting, transporting and finally being put in your bag. We grow so many kinds of vegetables, planted multiple times throughout the season in different patches, and on different farms. To keep track of the movement of each tomato feels impossibly complex.

We must remember why certification came about in the first place. It was designed for consumers in a retail setting to be able to know something about the food in front of them. It was a way for wholesale growers to tell their consumers, whom they do not know or ever see, how they grew that product. Wholesale growers tend to grow large acreages of many fewer crops. We market gardeners, who know and see our customers, have much more complicated operations and don’t need a third party to represent ourselves in the marketplace.

It will be sad to be separated from our historic “organic” label. This was never the intent of the federal guidelines, but it is the unexpected result. Many small farms have opted out of the certification process, mainly due to the magnitude of the documentation task, and there are many new possible label words floating around. We’ll just have to see which one suits us, as we continue to grow vegetables in the same old, organic way.