And despite how intimidated I was by the process when it first began, the length of time it took me to fill out this application had nothing to do with difficulty. I think subconsciously I kept putting it off because I just wasn't sure it was what I wanted to do.
For the last few years when the subject of organic certification came up, I laughed. I was adamant that I would not become organically certified. Not because we weren't doing everything and more that is required of the growing process to become certified. We were. Until last summer we had never even used an organically approved compound in our fields. We cover crop, rotate crops, compost, apply manure according to organic guidelines...we use manual and mechanical cultivation of weeds, we mulch with hay grown on our ground rather than using herbicides or even plastic mulch....we handpick or burn insect infestations rather than using chemicals. And we do these things because we choose to, not because a certifying agency tells us we have to.
I do not want to have to document and justify my actions to a certifying agency whose sole interest in our farm is based on the fees they collect to hold me accountable. We have been nothing but transparent to our customers in Conway in our growing practices for the past four years. It has served us well. We have made invaluable friendships out of what I hope to be lifelong customers.
However, last year we began selling in Little Rock. The added time it took to include these markets into our schedule not only took away from time we had with our customers in Conway but also kept us from developing truly personal relationships with our new customers. Surprisingly enough, taking our word that we used no chemicals still seemed enough for most of these new customers. So, what changed my mind?
It has always bothered me to listen to growers that I know use conventional practices tell customers that they grow organically just to make a sale. And I see it happen. After watching that this summer I decided that I wanted to be held accountable to someone else to prove that we weren't saying we grow organically just to make a sale. So despite my reservations about the organic certification, I think we are going through with it.
Now that the application is complete, we'll see how long it takes to make it to the mailbox.