The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What it REALLY means to be a certified organic farmer.

flourgirl51's picture

What it REALLY means to be a certified organic farmer.

Being a certified organic farmer means MUCH more than just not using chemicals. It means a different way of farming altogether than conventional farming. Certified organic farming means you have to leave buffer strips to make sure that adjoining fields can't contaminate your fields with chemical sprays and GMO crops. This is done by tilling under a large section of your fields that are near neighboring fields. We can't use chemicals in organic farming so we have to remove weeds with the tractor and methods called multiweeding and harrowing. These methods also remove a portion of the crops which you lose so you have to seed heavier to compensate for this which makes it more expensive than conventional farming is and also means hours and hours spent in the tractor. Water quality is also checked and soil samples are required much of the time. This all costs money. We have to rotate the crops each year which helps to keep the soils from being depleted of nutrients , which means you can' t grow the same crop on the same field two years in a row. You have to let some fields "rest" or lie fallow for a year which helps to remove weeds by not planting that field that year, you just keep tilling the weeds under to kill them. When a field lies fallow you don't make any money from it that year, but it helps to produce a better crop the next year. We grow a specialty legume crop that produces nitrogen for the ground instead of using a deadly chemical such as annhydrous ammonia. Nitrogen is key to the protein content of the wheat and we are proud of our 14% high protein wheat-produced organically. Being certified organic means that you have to pay to join a certifying agency.THEY in turn choose an inspector to send out to the farm each year to perform an all day inspection. You can't choose your own independent inspection company in certified organic farming. Companies can't do inspections, only certifiying agencies can. The inspector checks the fields and crops, the machinery and grain bins and the mountain of paperwork and records that you have to have. You have to have certificates and affidavits for many things. The machinery, grain bins and trucks have to be cleaned out between crops and be rodent proof and the trucks and combine are checked to make sure that they aren't leaking anything that could contaminate organic soil. The semi trucks that haul the grains to the mills have to also be cleaned out and have affidavits also.If you use any fertilizers such as molasses, you have to provide the paperwork that shows that they are approved by your certifying agency, and also provide the labels for these. If you have too many weeds in your fields the crops can be condemned and are not certifiable. Just because an inspector comes and checks your farm does NOT mean that your farm will be certified organic. All of the certifying agency's requirements have to be met in order to become certified. If they choose not to certify your crops you don't get your money back and you can't sell your crops as certified organic. We CHOSE to be certified organic farmers because we believe that it is so much better for us, our families, the earth and our customers who buy directly from us and ultimately for the consumers who end up with our high quality grains and flours. We work hard to grow these crops while we also try to build up the soils to replace what the crops remove each year. I hope that this has helped to educate some people about what it really means to be Certified Organic. Going the extra mile to become a cerfied organic farm means that our customers can be assured that we have done everything possible to provide them with the highest quality wheats and flours that we can while we also are stewards of the land that is so precious to us. We have been a certified organic farm for almost 14 years.


summerbaker's picture

As someone who has switched to about 75% organic in my food purchases, I really appreciate any education from the people who actually produce the food that I buy.  Thank you for producing such a great product!


dausone's picture

Thanks flourgirl for breaking it down.

I have been wondering, why oh why are most of the small local farms near me that are selling their produce at my local farmers market NOT certified organic? Well flourgirl just answered that one. Cost. I still support these farms because having a certified organic label isn't the whole picture. I can ask these farmers directly whether they use pesticides, whether their seeds are GMO, or what kinds of fertilizers are being used. I can see why its hard for the small farmer to keep up with a growing organic industry, a 20 billion dollar a year industry. I am to the point where I refuse to buy any of my produce from places like Whole Foods, simply because they get most of their organic produce from large industrial farms. Call me crazy, but I just feel better supporting my small local farm than supporting the industry that helped destroy them. Like I said above, a certified organic label isn't the whole picture. We should be striving for food that is beyond organic, food that is raised humanely, sustainably, biodynamically, and environmentally sound.

twgiffin's picture

Well said !

ivyb's picture

I grow some of my produce, and I buy the rest locally grown.  I have had this "argument" with other people who don't understand why I shy away from buying produce at WholeFoods and spend a lot at the local farm.  People at work drive right PAST the farm (!) and drive into White Plains to WholeFoods, because "it's organic". Of course, having spent my childhood summers next door to a dairy farm, I am full aware of the work that goes into a family-owned farm, and, watching this one farm, which was in the family for 200+ years close in the 80's, I can attest that the small, family-owned farms NEED us to buy from THEM!) (And, yes, I do still have my barn coat and barn boots! :) )


ivy, ny

flourgirl51's picture

Thank you all for being so supportive of small family farms.

Grandpa F's picture
Grandpa F

Thank you for sharing what it takes to become and maintain an organic certified farmer.   Kudos'on your diligences and efforts.....

I'm currently engaged, along with 10 other people in our small New Hampshire community, in discussions on "Menu for the Future" sponsored by the Northwest Earth Institute.  We are a mixture of farmers, educators, writers, homemakers, activist, business people, and engineers who are concerned with our nation's current food production techniques and its effect on each other and future generations.  We support your way of farming and will share this article with others.

A causal bread maker...Grandpa F.


flourgirl51's picture

Thank YOU for sharing! We have a local group that is partnered  with the University of Minnesota that promotes buying locally produced foods. I think that this trend is becoming more of a national movement.

Grandpa F's picture
Grandpa F

 You're right,'s spreading nationwide.  There is hope towards changing the current focus from industrialized agriculture to a more sustainable, local method of food production for the upcoming generation! 

Paddyscake's picture

all who strive to keep the good earth and it's inhabitants healthy! Your post was most interesting and I appreciate your taking the time to educate us.


flourgirl51's picture

You are quite welcome!

BergerDoane's picture

I am new to Minneapolis and having difficulty finding organic rye berries locally.  I saw this posting but the website listed was no longer active.  Is Flourgirl51 still out there?