Maude Island Farm
Q. Why is being certiﬁed organic important to you and your business?
A. You ask why being certiﬁed organic is important to me and my business and it got me thinking that, depending on how the question is posed, the answer would be quite different. If you ask, why is being organic important, it would elicit a different answer than, why is being certiﬁed organic important?
We have been selling produce locally since 1994 and in the early years, although we grew organically, we relied on our relationship with the community to build trust in our products. We are a small family farm and initially we didn’t see a need for organic certiﬁcation. Around 2004 we decided to get the farm certiﬁed when we started growing larger amounts of garlic because the price differential for certiﬁed organic garlic was enough to justify the expenditure. The ‘transition’ was fairly simple, a little more paperwork, money, and annual visits from the veriﬁcation ofﬁcer. The good thing about becoming certiﬁed is that it keeps us apprised of the changes in products and techniques that are acceptable in order to meet the standards. It also helps to clearly differentiate us from the conventional growers at the market. Getting certiﬁed is kind of like going to the dentist, you dread the additional work and cost but in the end you’re glad you did it.
Q. What are the most important principles or philosophies that guide your company?
A. I suppose ‘ﬁrst do no harm’ would be a basic principle that guides our decision-making on the farm. Laird and I want this place to endure, to produce food for the long term. That means treating the land with respect. When we arrived 25 years ago the soil had a 19% organic matter content and it still tests at 19% 25 years later. The soil has gotten better as we build it and that is a legacy of local food security I am proud to pass on.
Q. What speciﬁc questions did you have when learning about organic certiﬁcation?
A. Why so much paperwork?! I think that was the major shock in the beginning. I am more aware now of the pressures on the land and farmers and the issues that the certifying bodies are grappling with. GMO seed and products, false claims of yields and fraudulent sales of imported produce claimed as ‘organic’ are just a couple of the issues of the day that need to be identiﬁed by veriﬁcation ofﬁcers in order to protect the quality of organic products. It’s a tough job but I am glad we have third-party veriﬁcation, not only for my farm but for the products I purchase as a consumer as well.
Q. If someone you know is thinking of certifying organic, what advice would you give?
A. First, know the standards, there are things in there that might surprise you, like something as simple as some peat moss and soil mixes contain wetting agents that are not organic. Keep good records. I used to write everything in my Lee Valley Garden Journal and all was good, the planting dates, harvest records, amendments, and maps were all in one place. Then I tried to put the information on the computer. Spreadsheets for everything, very professional. The problem is I hate the computer and most of the days’ work ended up in my head and not written anywhere. Big mistake. If you like computers you will love the certiﬁcation process. I prefer to be outside.
Q. Why did you choose PACS as your certifying body?
A. We’ve been with PACS for many years now and although I hate the paperwork, the people in the ofﬁce have been helpful and understanding. I remember conversations with Roz back when she was running the ofﬁce and I always appreciated her personal touch. I recently considered changing to a different certiﬁer because the only other organic farm on Haida Gwaii is using a different agency. It made sense to me that we use the same certifying body in order to share the costs of the veriﬁcation visits. PACS is trying to level the ﬁeld for remote farms by sharing inspection costs with the entire membership, which I, as a remote farmer, really appreciate so I am sticking with PACS. I also appreciate that PACS acknowledges the burden of the paperwork and actively attempts to keep it simple and straightforward for us luddites!
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Why Organic? SR Farms