This week at the market a woman came up to our booth and asked me why the farm wasn’t certified organic. She was concerned about accountability and the verification that being organic certified gives to her as a customer. I have now worked on two farms that don’t see a need to be certified. Besides the fees and extra paperwork that certification demands there can be various other reasons not to be certified:
1. Most of the sales we do here are directly to the customer. A face to face relationship between consumer and producer decreases the need to certify. The customer trusts the farmer and can raise questions and concerns to him/her whenever they may have any.
2. We have an open farm policy. Anyone who is interested in visiting the farm can come and look at the cattle, fields, freezers, barn etc. to see what is going on here. At this specific farm a customer would find that besides humanely raised grass-fed beef, the farmer has dedicated a lot of time and energy in land stewardship-something that is not regulated by organic certification.
3. Sales are not lost due to lack of certification (well, not many that we may know of). Even this woman at the market this week who was very concerned about it was convinced to buy some beef after I honestly described our farming practices. I like to think that when you are trusting and honest to someone, they will trust you back.
In this case certification isn’t necessary, but I do think that there is a place for it. When produce and meat is handled by middlemen and sold, for example in a grocery store, a third party certifier is useful. Not everyone can meet their farmer and visit the farm to verify for themselves that the food is safe and ‘organically’ grown. I do however strongly urge people to go their local farmer’s market and buy straight from the farmer when they can!
Evidence of weeds and hand weeding…a sure sign of organic farming practice!