Monday, March 30, 2009

Giving up the Organic Certificate

Lately Dante and I have become increasingly disenchanted by " certified organic ". Don't get us wrong, we believe wholeheartedly in organic agriculture, and will always farm organically. We have really struggled with the decision but in the end feel it is best for our family, our farm, and our customers.
We don't use chemicals on our land, routine antibiotics on our livestock. We wouldn't hesitate to turn to antibiotics to save a life, just like we wouldn't deny antibiotics for one of our kids, our animals are all pets with names and the right to life saving medicine if it is needed.
All our animals are pastured during the grazing season. Not only is this healthiest for the animals, it is also healthiest for the farmer, physically, mentally, financially. We also take care of the local wildlife, by keeping the fields organic and open, surrounded by woods, and keeping our cows out of the year round brook we have, we are preserving important habitat for them as well. We employ a loving and highly effective LGD ( livestock guardian dog ), so we can coexist peacefully with woodsland predators. We are doing a major fencing project late spring, so we can utilize every blade of grass.
A couple of events spearheaded this decision to drop organic certification.
1.) A screw up by our butcher, totally his fault not ours, cost us $12,000 right as we were going into winter. Disastrous timing, eh?
2.) We learned that we could not use my Dad's locally grown hay for our cows, because he is not-and doesn't ever wish to be certified organic. So there went certified organic dairy. We decided it wasn't sustainable for us to purchase hay from a great distance, at a higher cost, and a greater expenditure of gasoline, when we could get it locally and at a great price. ( he is my Dad and he likes to eat pork and drink milk as well).
3.)The only certified grain we could get delivered to us was grown in Canada, and also trucked a great distance, and we were forced to buy more than we needed at atime at great expense all at once. All that money wasn't going local, wasn't even going to our country! We just didn't feel good about that. Yet organic certifiers recommend this feed company.
4.) The economy is tanking, we all need to tighten our belts. Basically we decided we could remain organic, but wouldn't actually be able to afford to feed any animals that way! Or we could continue to farm organically, with less restriction and governmental interfrence and standardization, do what makes sense and is the most sustainable. We will still be able to provide our delicious food, we are farming exactly the same but decided not to buy the word"organic" this year.
5.)We have made a dramatic move away from wholesale distribution of our goods to almost exclusively selling directly to our customers. This allows us to get to know our customers and speak face to face, and field any questions personally. We welcome you to be informed consumers and ask about how we raise our animals. I personally feel that organic certification is more important when you are selling to a middleman ( someone who is going to resell your product in his establishment ) because in that situation all the consumer has to go on is the appearance of your product and what the label can tell you about that product. You can't ask that package of porkchops what its life was like or what it ate for breakfast, but when you buy from us on the farm or at a farmers market you can ask us anything you want. We can build a relationship of trust between farmer and consumer because where would one be without the other?
6.) The fees for organic certification doubled this year! Another example of excellent timing. We like Mofga and are members and support what they do, but just couldn't see paying that kind of money for a label this year, being organic means so much more to us. Not to mention that it seems the USDA owns the word "organic " you can't even use it unless you buy it via certification. Our main focus is on Local agriculture and sustainable farming methods and a sustainable business so we can be around for years to come doing what we love!


  1. Hi. I am in north east Fl and I am trying to find a Jersey cow to buy. This is our 1st cow and we would like to get milk from her. I have no idea where to start. I have read all over the internet for days but I'm wondering if there is any websites that you think that would be helpful or books.

    So far I have only been able to find 1 Mini Jersey heifer and she was $3500, way out of my price range!!

    Any advice on how to get started????? Thank you so much!

  2. Linsey,
    A great resource is You can learn all things cow there, also the book " Keeping a Family Cow " by Joann s Grohman. The site was started because of her book.
    $3,500 is too much in my opinion. There are lots of small statured Jersey cows, that go in the $800- $1200 range, usually in milk and maybe even bred back.
    I would look for a gentle cow that is bred and late in lactation so you can learn to milk while she isn't at peak production for a couple months, then dry her off and have a calf! How exciting for you! Let me know what you find.