Are You Certified Organic?

jenny jack farm

At the farmer’s market on Saturday morning a question often expressed is, “are you an organic farm?” It’s encouraging and admirable that the standards by which food is grown is at least as important as the sticker price, and that maybe more and more folks are becoming increasingly educated on conventional Ag’s toxic side effects. We are all slowly learning that blindly consuming whatever food is offered to the masses may not be the healthiest decision for neither our bodies nor our world. The question about us being an organic farm is a noble starting point but it is one uneasily answered in a split second market frenzy. The uneven trail leading to a straightforward yes or no response is littered with seemingly endless diversions of philosophy, ownership, and practice. We can all relate to questions such as these. Inquiries that both demand and deserve a deeper engagement like political party affiliation or religious loyalty or unpacking those intrinsic life battles that eagerly confound or even the mundane, ubiquitous question, “How are you?” Most of the time the answer is not I am a Democrat or I am a Christian or I’m fine, thank you. Usually, if we’re honest and willing, our encounter with these questions involve vivid language thoughtfully invoking a worn rationale, courageously wrested with over time. Most of our explanations need more than just nods. So, yes, we are an organic farm, but not exactly…

Don’t let that “not exactly” comment force you to spastically spew your Organic Kombucha all over the computer screen. Even though we are not “Certified Organic”, our growing practices have often exceeded certified standards since our inception eight years ago. We are Certified Naturally Grown, which is a grassroots alternative to Certified Organic. We are not legally allowed to use the descriptive term “organic” unless we go through the proper channels of certification including an annual payment, extensive (though sensible) record keeping, and the occasional USDA inspection by a trained agent. We have considered taking this route. We have farmer friends who willingly and gleefully lend the necessary energy to operate as an organic farm and who sing loudly and earnestly its praises. But we have never been pushed by the looming market powers that be to take the plunge. We grow food for fine, farm-eating folks who all live within about 30 miles of the soil from whence they rely. We annually host a farm dinner and a CSA potluck as well as a weekly on farm market and CSA pick-up. We are inspected yearly by another farmer to remain Certified Naturally Grown. We have no impenetrable fences, no “keep out” signs, no creek-crossing driveway, and we have no scary, snake-infested, sprawling junkyard reminiscent of old school country living. Our farm has a transparent, wide, open door policy; appointments and dress codes are non-existent and a phone photo shoot needs no pre-approval. Maybe one day we will find it necessary to certify in order to continue operating successfully, but for now, you, the loyal farm supporter, act as the certifying agent. We expect and encourage visits, questions, thoughts, and comments so that you feel perfectly comfortable dining from your local farm. Our growing practices reflect an evolving affection we share for our bodies and our soil and as our farm continues to exist we hope it does so rightly in the eyes, minds, and bellies of those who graciously and genuinely choose to eat from our fields.

About Chris Jackson

Chris Jackson and his wife Jenny run a family centered sustainable farm in Pine Mountain, Georgia. They personify the agrarian life. Chis considers Wendell Berry to be one of his greatest intellectual influences. More from Chris Jackson

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