A Farmer Explains
"Organic…Certified Organic…Transitional… Sustainable" all are words too often fraught with ambiguity and confusion. The word "organic" will soon be defined by a voluminous Federal law, which will not help many of us understand it any better. Since 1995, Alden Ponds has been a certified organic grower here in Illinois, so we have developed working definitions.
Our broadest definition for "organic" is a system of agriculture in which no synthetic inputs are used. In practice, organic farming is more about what is added than about what is taken away. Methods such as crop rotation, cover cropping, and natural fertilization, and incorporation of biological diversity promote a healthy soil and ecosystem. These, in turn, lead to more trouble free crops, healthier livestock, and, most importantly, to better tasting and more nutritious foods.
A farm that is "Certified Organic" adheres to standards set by independent certifiers. The farmer completes an annual questionnaire which includes detailed lists of all inputs and their sources, as well as farming methods used. The certifier sends out a specially trained individual for onsite inspections. The annual questionnaire and the inspection report are then presented for approval.
One standard certification requirement is that land remain free of synthetic inputs for three years before it can be certified. This three year wait is called the "transitional" period. Farmers who define themselves as "transitional", then, are in that waiting period, and their "transitional" product must be grown in accordance with all other certifier standards.
Organic farming comes under the "sustainable" heading.
But sustainable agriculture encompasses non-organic methods, as well,
like Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which seeks to minimize the amounts
and toxicity of pesticides used. Sustainable agriculture’s goal is to
have the least negative environmental impact and to thrive over the long-term.
Conventional mono-culture has led to pollution, soil depletion, lower
nutritional quality and frequent contamination of our foodstuffs. All
too often, factory farming has bankrupted individual farmers. Sustainable
farming seeks to be sustainable on all levels, including the health and
welfare of the farmer and the community.
Written By Mary Wilson of Alden Ponds
14518 O'Brien Road Harvard, IL 60033 Phone: 815-648-4708