We often hear from organic farmers about the fact that we now have to ‘prove’ and pay for the right to call ourselves organic farmers, we believe that like every other skilled profession, it is good for farmers to have standards and practises that they adhere to…and which can be easily recognisable to our end customers.
We began Lifeforce Food Gardens as ‘Spray Free’, un-certified organic, and using only organic farming practises, and inputs. We quickly came to understand that the term “Spray Free” means different things to different farmers and to consumers.
In my previous work in the world of Industrial Hemp, I had the job of talking to farmers (organic, spray free and chemical), about the benefits of using hemp in their rotations. I was shocked at the standard practises of the conventional farmers, and disturbed by what some farmers were calling “spray free” produce. A standard practise is to spray a pre-emergent spray (roundup / glyphosate), or barrier plastic onto the fields before planting the crop. As nothing else can grow in the soil apart from the planted crop, they do not have to spray any herbicide on the crop they are growing for sale, and if they are lucky no pesticide either…so they call this crop “Spray Free” as no spray was applied to the actual plant during its lifetime, despite the fact it was grown in a known carcinogen 🙁
It is true that the vast majority of small scale, spray free farmers are in fact doing the right thing, and not using any harmful chemicals on their lands, yet there are always a few that will take advantage, and with so many definitions and practises, eg. organic, regenerative, no-till, sustainable, biodynamic etc., we were happy to become certified to be easily recognisable by our customers. And we look forward to the certification evolving and moving towards a more regenerative orientation in time.
The certification process is comprehensive looking at our farming practises, systems, inputs, ethics, business practices, and administration, as well as testing our soil and water to verify that the land and water are un-contaminated by chemicals, and looking at neighbouring properties and other potential areas of contamination. It is relatively inexpensive (we pay approx $30 per week), and the administration that we need to do, is the same as is required to run a farm and small business anyway. If your soil and water tests are clean, then you are able to go straight into “in conversion” status, as we could.
Becoming Certified Organic has opened up more opportunities to sell our produce locally, and if we choose nationally, as the spray free, (un-certified organic) market is saturated here in Byron Shire.
The trend overseas is towards certification for farmers. The demand for certified organic produce has increased dramatically globally, driven by customer desire to consume clean grown organic food they can trust, for a variety of health, social and environmental reasons. We hope to see more local, affordable, Australian, soil – grown, certified organic produce available.