As a newbie farmers we have so many choices to make. One choice we have been discussing is whether or not to go for organic labeling. This year we would be considered a small producer and could sell up to $5,000 worth of organic products without the costly organic certification process. All NOP requirements must still be met and documented. Now I logically agree with the standards of organic certification, but feel the process has become subverted and exploited somehow. It is very exclusionary. If you know the farmer down the road is raising hay without herbicides, unless he has filled out all the forms and paid his certification money down, you cannot use that hay for your organic livestock.
Similar problems arise with the critters themselves. Organic piglets for example, are only considered such if the sow is raised organically in her last trimester. Can I tell you how many organic piglets are available for sale in the northern half of WI? Zero. How does one even get in the game? Does one even want to get in such a game? Chickens are easier as they can be labeled organic if standards are met from day one onward.
I want to do better than organic. I want non-GMO, pesticide free feed. I want animals free of synthetic hormones and antibiotics. But I also want to support the farmer down the road. I want to not waste all my time i-dotting and t-crossing. I want to serve people who TRUST that I am providing the best, healthiest product possible-not to meet some autocratic legal mumbo jumbo, but because it is the RIGHT thing to do.
Another path I would like to explore is Certified Naturally Grown. Labeled as the grassroots alternative to certified organic. They are a ‘Participatory Guarantee System’ model of certification-essentially via a peer-reviewed certification program. I think this may be a ‘better than organic’ standard but I need to investigate a bit more. I have time. Our pasture is not eligible for anyone’s certification until 2013, we need to have 3 years worth of records for either program.