Fresh Facts Week 28: Uncle Vern’s weekly farm-fueled musings.
Look at this! It is 3 a.m. on March the 3rd; that would make it 333. I don’t know what the significance of this is; half of 666? When you ask some people how they’re doin’ they say “not half bad.” Nobody says “not half good” because that would be 3.5, 3.5, 3.5…So I guess this morning I’m not half bad. That’s good because in a few hours I have my organic audit; a 12 hour annual event that’s always such a joy. Oh, you want to hear all about it? Actually, since organic is what we’re all about here, it might be worth a few inches describing what your farmers do to maintain their certification.*
To lay the foundation, in the late 90s, “organic” became the property of our beloved federal government after several years of wrangling over what was, is, should, and shouldn’t be considered organic. They established the NOP (National Organic Program) that continues to wrestle with that question to this day. Mark Twain said, “Nobody should watch sausages and laws being made,” and I’d say that applies here as well, although the trend has been to consistently raise the bar. A couple examples from the last few years are greater pasture requirements for organic milk cows and the removal of antibiotics for fireblight control in apples and pears.
Anyhow, from a certification standpoint there’s a bunch of rules the breaking of which, at minimum, puts you out of the program for 3 years and maximum, include fines and jail time. The United States of America vs. Vernon E. Peterson isn’t a place I want to be. From a practical standpoint, a bunch of folks decide specifically what can and can’t be done and then each farmer writes up his own organic SOP (System Operating Plan) for his farm or ranch.
That becomes a fun little game of Mother May I? In other words, every aspect of organic farming on my farm has been written out in advance. When I’m going to apply manure from our chickens, how I’m going to decide how much per acre to use, what probiotics I’m going to use at bloom time….you get the idea: everything. Just because something is registered for organic use on my crop doesn’t mean I can use it, I first must say: “Mother may I?” She says, “Yes, you may.” I then add it to my SOP and proceed while documenting what and when I actually did it. The same applies to how the fruit is handled in the packing shed.
In some ways, following this protocol ensures one is never out of compliance. In others, it makes organic farming more about paper than plows. But wait, there’s more! Tomorrow—that’s right folks, back to back—I have my food safety audit in the packing shed; can you fathom the ecstasy of my heart as I am embraced by all the love and care? That one isn’t as good, it only lasts about 7 hours as they observe our crew putting oranges in boxes, literally white glove the bottom of everything then review 5 feet of binders showing what an awesome job we’re doing.
Now “in the shed” shouldn’t be confused with “in the field!” Oh no, that’s a different trip to Nirvana that takes a full day. Then there’s the CHP truck inspections, CDFA inspections and of course—drum roll please—SURPRISE INSPECTIONS!!! Almost like when all your friends come over for your birthday, they even bring presents. OSHA was here last week; you could just feel the love! So there’s a glimpse into part of Uncle Vern’s life and you know what? It isn’t half bad…