Why buy “Certified Organic” fruits, vegetable, herbs and flowers from Dora's Garden?
Some growers assure their customers they follow organic practices, although they are not “certified organic.” They explain they do not want the cost of certification added to the cost of their products. We live in a small community where we know most of the people with whom we share common interests. So why hold out for “certified organic” products, especially “certified organic” local products? Please consider the following reasons:
(1) When you purchase certified organic products, you vote with your dollars. If we want to live in a world where water, soil, air and food are not contaminated, we need to vote for public servants who pledge to eliminate contamination and to vote by spending our dollars on certified organic products.
(2) Growers who make the commitment to be “certified organic” submit to high standards of accountability. How many products, laws, procedures, customs...institutions that we encounter every day have high standards of accountability? In my experience they are few.
I have one scheduled inspection each year, and I can have additional unscheduled surprise inspections. The inspector searches through my storage areas, my garden, my field, my product labels, my equipment and tools, my farm journals where every procedure must be documented, my bookkeeping, my empty seed packets and empty packaging from any product I brought from outside onto my farm.
You may have noticed that Oregon Tilth required me to change my logo for labels on my jams and eggs a couple of years ago. I am hoping to grow all my poultry feed this year so I can certify my eggs.
I put the left logo on certified organic hay, fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers. I put the right logo on raspberry jam and eggs. By the way, my raspberry jam contains only certified organic raspberries and certified organic sugar; and my chickens spend all day on a certified organic pasture. Picky, picky.
(3) Without going through the certification process, it is unlikely a grower would know all the organic practices they claim they are following. Organic practices are much more comprehensive than simply foregoing glyphosate. I needed months to fully internalize the process for determining which products, and under which conditions, were listed on OMRI's (Organic Materials Research Institute) approval list. I have learned a statement on a label that a product is “for organic production” means nothing alone.
I may use the product with the label on the left; I may not use the product with the label on the right.
(4) There is a widespread assumption that “certified organic” fruits and vegetables are more expensive than their non-certified counterparts. Small operations in which human beings plant, weed and harvest must earn payment for the human hours consumed, in order to be sustainable. I suspect that prices at my farm stand are similar to farm stand prices elsewhere in the county. I refer to farm stands where the farmers expect to earn a living from their farming endeavors, not hobby farms.
WalMart may sell “certified organic” fruits and vegetables at lower prices because huge operations can take advantage of economy of scale and WalMart does not consider living wages for farm workers. Fruits and vegetables are in my farm stand for a maximum of three days, before they are consumed by humans or livestock on the farm. The trade-offs for WalMart's prices are social justice, freshness, and keeping dollars circulating in our community.
Most of the fees for organic certification of small producers in Oregon are subsidized by the USDA through the Oregon Department of Agriculture. We have no idea if this will continue when we see a new U S Farm Bill in 2018.