In the year 2002, the USDA National Organic Standards went into effect. Along with the phenomenal growth in demand for organic food came new legislation to govern this emerging new farming sector. One measure of this law requires all organic growers to register with the state and maintain annual organic certification with a 3rd party organic certifier.
Organic certification is a very expensive and time-consuming process. One year when we were farming around 40 acres, our farm paid over four thousand dollars to certify our dates and date products, and another three hundred to register with the state. For larger growers who farm hundreds of acres this seems afforable, since they can spread out these costs over millions of pounds of produce. For the small family farm, it can be very discouraging.
If anything, the government should be encouraging small organic agriculture with subsidies and programs that make it easier to farm this way as they do with other farm commodities. Instead, like many laws, this legislation seems to be in favor of the big guys. In fact, thanks to the lobbying of companies like Monsanto, the first draft of this bill was to permit genetically engineered crops and toxic sewage sludge fertilizer to be called organic. If not for the hard work of grass roots organizations and an outcry from organic consumers with over 200,000 letters to the USDA they would have gotten their way.
The first year the National Organic Standards went into affect around 700 of the 2000 registered organic farms in California did not re-up their state registration.
In the 80s and 90s when you bought organic food you were probably supporting a small family farm. But now that organics is a multi-billion dollar industry, the factory farms are moving in and the small farm which organics once saved, is on the run again.
Organic certifiers have a place as educators and watchdogs to these industrial size farms that are jumping on the organic bandwagon, but unlike the certification of yoga instructors, no grandfather clause was included in this law for farms that have been organic for a long time and know what they're doing.These small farms have less need for certification since they have experience, good reputations, less volume to move, and a direct connection with the consumer.
We are a small farm with no employees and no real desire to expand. We went down the path of growth and expansion in the 80s and 90s. We saw where that leads to and we don't want to go there. We prefer a simpler way of life. We have a hands on connection with our trees and personal connection with our customers when they call to order.
To make ones living growing crops in a natural way as our forefathers have done for thousands of years is an undeniable human right. We don't want to see anyone lock it up, so you can only do it if you have their special key. Our farm cannot afford certification and we do not want to deal with governmental or private 3rd party inspectors.
We are still committed to the same high standards and purity as before, but now in order to be in accordance with the law, we no longer use the word organic, since we do not agree with mandatory certifiction for all. Since the 70s, I've built my life around organic agriculture and to a small extent have helped to get the organic ball rolling. Hopefully, the reputation we've earned over the past 24 years will carry us through.