How terms like “sustainable” and “organic” fit in on our farm
To be an organic farm in the United States means that you must go through an application process and have a third party inspect and certify your farm. The guidelines for this Federal certification are outlined here: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/nop. I am very familiar with the guidelines for organic production, having worked on several farms that are certified organic, and have participated in the organic inspection. I think the national organic program is good and necessary to hold farms (especially larger farms that don’t sell directly to their consumers) accountable, and to have a standard that is clear cut and can be referred to by any consumer.
As a small grower in my first year, I decided not to be organically certified, but since most of my sales will be directly to the consumer, I can explain my farming methods to them. I invite anyone interested in observing my practices for personal interest and education, or to hold me accountable make a visit to the farm.
I am committed to the production standards of organic farming, which means sourcing seeds from organic sources when possible (for me this is the vast majority), using organic materials to amend and enrich soils (including things like bone meal, manure, compost, lime), and only using organic sprays on crops that break down quickly in the environment, which are specifically listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), found here: https://www.omri.org/. Most sprays are targeted at certain pests, have specific application times during the day, and can only be used if a certain threshold of pest damage is reached.
Sustainable farming to me also means planting a diverse array of crops, providing habitat for beneficial insects and other wildlife, using tillage practices that do not deplete the topsoil or cause erosion, with the goal of all farm practices to be soil-building.