Aimee and I on our first Farmers Market date here in Lucadia!
6. “Do you know what OMRI means?” Founded in 1997, the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) provides organic certifiers, growers, manufacturers, and suppliers an independent review of products intended for use in certified organic production, handling, and processing. OMRI is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. When companies apply, OMRI reviews their products against the National Organic Standards. Acceptable products are OMRI Listed® and appear on the OMRI Products List. OMRI also provides subscribers and certifiers guidance on the acceptability of various material inputs in general under the National Organic Program. Anyone farming in a truly organic manner—certified or not—should know what this means.
7. “How do you control weeds for your crops?” Organic farmers use all types of methods to suppress weeds but generally don’t require a completely weed-free field, and with good reason. As long as soil quality is high, even a weedier field will produce the same yields as a chemical field, according to research done by the Rodale Institute, an organic research farm near Kutztown, Pennsylvania. Organic methods include using cover crops, mulching, cultivation, and if it’s a smaller operation, even hand-weeding.
8. “How are bugs and pests controlled?” Biodiversity is a major part of organic farming. Farmers who install wildlife corridors and pollinator plantings, including meadows, will attract beneficial inspects into the field to prey on pests that like to eat crops. Bugs are only bad in processed foods. There are also organic-approved pest-control products on the market. If your farmer uses them, ask for the product name, and check to see if it’s on the OMRI list.
9. “Ask what types of seeds are used?” Specifically ask if the seeds are Monsanto backed or sold by a Monsanto-backed company. Click here for a list of heritage, conventional and some organic sources. Certified organic seed varieties are, by definition, GMO-free. The Organic Seed Alliance maintains a list of Sources of Organic Seeds. Other sources: De Dell Seeds Organic and Non-GMO corn seed and Turtletree Seed Biodynamic seed. Certified organic growers are not allowed to have GMO’s in their seeds.
10. “Do you pot up transplants with compost, reuse and recycle?” (Look for worn-looking hands and a green, rough thumb as well as having a few bug chew holes in their produce.) While this may seem trivial and a bit tongue-n-cheek, most farmers look like…farmers. Taking the time to notice little things may provide you with a good amount of information. Bonus Information Currently commercialized GM crops in the U.S. include soy (94%), cotton (90%), canola (90%), sugar beets (95%), corn (88%), Hawaiian papaya (more than 50%), zucchini and yellow squash (over 24,000 acres). (Number in parentheses represents the estimated percent that is genetically modified.) Blue corn cross-pollinates with current GM corn varieties. And now, with the sugar beet growers going GM, there is the possibility of cross-pollination into other beet varieties and near relatives, such as chard. All but soy cross-pollinates.
It is unlikely that other seed varieties, whether organic or not are GM, though contamination may occur by cross pollination or other means from experiment and sometimes publicly undisclosed GM test plots throughout the nation. How do organic farmers fertilize crops and control pests, diseases, and weeds? – Organic farmers build healthy soils by nourishing the living component of the soil, the microbial inhabitants that release, transform, and transfer nutrients. Soil organic matter contributes to good soil structure and water-holding capacity. Organic farmers feed soil biota and build soil structure and water-holding capacity. Organic farmers build soil organic matter with cover crops, compost, and biologically based soil amendments.
These produce healthy plants that are better able to resist disease and insect predation. Organic farmers’ primary strategy in controlling pests and diseases is prevention through good plant nutrition and management. Organic farmers use cover crops and sophisticated crop rotations to manage the field ecology, effectively disrupting habitat for weeds, insects, and disease organisms.
Weeds are controlled through crop rotation, mechanical tillage, and hand-weeding, as well as through cover crops, mulches, flame weeding, and other management methods. Organic farmers rely on a diverse population of soil organisms, beneficial insects, and birds to keep pests in check. When pest populations get out of balance, growers implement a variety of strategies such as the use of insect predators, mating disruption, traps and barriers. Under the National Organic Program Rule, growers are required to use sanitation and cultural practices first before they can resort to applying a material to control a weed, pest or disease problem. Use of these materials in organic production is regulated, strictly monitored, and documented. As a last resort, certain botanical or other non-synthetic pesticides may be applied. References Rodale News Institute of Responsible Technology Organic Farming Research Foundation