There is a term used in the organic certification world “Organic by Neglect” to indicate farmers seeking organic certification because they do nothing to the field. It is a myth that organic production is the absence of chemicals. Organic production is the mindful replacement of artificial environmental control through chemicals with directed management of natural processes. Farm neglect is not organic production and can be detrimental to the farm and surrounding producers.
There is nothing natural about a grove of lined up trees of one fruit crop or rows of a single planted green. These environments create conditions that can attract crop specific pests or deplete and erode soils without proper monitoring and maintenance. This is the basis of the requirements of the Organic System Plan. You must show what you are going to do, not what you are not going to do.
We are certainly no fans of paperwork at AgNet, but the age-old success adage of Make the Plan and Follow the Plan certainly applies to organic farming. Because we are not relying on preventive sprays of toxic chemicals to kill pests and disease or premixed chemical nutrients to feed the plants, the environment needs to be more closely monitored to assure the plants are not under attack and have access to nutrients in the soil. Failure to monitor properly can lead to infestations that can lead to damage to the farm or soil depletion and erosion that can lead to long term soil degradation.
As part of our assistance to local farmers seeking certification, we are designing simple planning and record-keeping tools to raise their awareness of monitoring. This also allows them to keep records of their monitoring which is an essential part of organic certification. We seek out farm consultants and PCAs to provide regular monitoring and feedback as part of their organic plan. Our mission in certification assistance is not to just complete the paperwork, but convey the process being documented so they can understand how to properly maintain organic production.
The next time you are at the Farmers Market, do not ask your local farmer the “No Spray” question, ask them what they are doing to avoid soil depletion (good flavor and nutritional value), inhibit pest buildup (prevent those nasty State Emergency Sprays) and improve the environment (habitat for bees, wildlife and clean water).