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Four Season Farm is an organic farm and has been so since its inception in 1967. Four Season Farm, however, is not “USDA Certified Organic” – for good reason.
We believe that our old-time organic practices go far beyond the weak (and growing weaker) standards minimally enforced by the USDA National Organic Program. The USDA standards do not ensure a sustainable method of agricultural production nor do they ensure that the food grown in accordance with those standards provides for nutrient dense, healthy, and environmentally friendly foodstuffs.
The USDA “organic” standards have been co-opted by professional marketers. Passionate organic farmers are no longer in control. Many entities now “certified organic” are doing more harm than good, not only to the environment, but also to the animals and humans who consume their products and to the integrity of the organic name.
We at Four Season Farm believe that our production practices reflect how organic farming should be done and we proudly advertise our produce as “GUARANTEED OLD-TIME ORGANIC.”
I repeat, we are not “USDA Certified Organic.” To be so certified would be inconsistent with what we believe real organic farming is all about and would indicate acceptance of a far lower standard of food quality than that to which we aspire.
1. First, for uncompromised nutritional value all crops must be grown in fertile soil attached to the earth and nourished by the natural biological activities of that soil. There are so many aspects of soil processes that we could not replace even if we wanted to, because we are still unaware of how they all work.
2. Second, soil fertility should be maintained principally with farm-derived organic matter and mineral particles from ground rock. Why take the chance of bringing in polluted material from industrial sources when fertility can be created and maintained internally?
3. Third, green manures and cover crops must be included within broadly based crop rotations to enhance biological diversity. The greater the variety of plants and animals on the farm, the more stable the system.
4. Fourth, a “plant positive” rather than a “pest negative” philosophy is vital. The focus must be on correcting the cause of problems by strengthening the plant through optimum growing conditions to prevent pests, rather than merely treating symptoms by trying to kill the pests that prey on weak plants. More and more scientific evidence is available today on the mechanisms by which a biologically active fertile soil creates induced resistance in the crops.
5. Fifth, livestock must be raised outdoors on grass-based pasture systems to the fullest extent possible. Farm animals are an integral factor in the symbiosis of soil fertility on the organic farm.
By Eliot Coleman
The most exciting feature of organic farming is its enlightened understanding of the relationship between plants and pests. Insects and diseases are not seen as enemies. Rather, they are seen as indicators – indicators that the growing conditions are inadequate for the physiological needs of the plant. Pests are bringing a message that the plants are under stress.
• When we use pesticides we are basically shooting the messenger and ignoring the message. This view of the plant/pest relationship is known as the “healthy plant theory” or the “plant-stress hypothesis”. The fact is we see the truth of it on our farm every day. When we have created growing conditions that meet the needs of the crop, there are no pests or diseases to contend with. Numerous scientific studies support our practical experience.
• The foundation of organic farming rests upon the creation of a biologically active fertile soil. I define organic farming by the benefits derived from that fertile soil rather than by its rejection of unnecessary chemicals.
• If organic farming offers nothing beyond rules restricting modern industrial inputs, then it really offers nothing revolutionary. If, however, it is appreciated that, when correctly done, the biologically based soil fertility practices focused on organic compost, green manures, natural minerals, crop rotations, cover crops, mixed stocking, etc. can support vigorous crops and livestock that are insusceptible to pests, a whole new world of agricultural science opens up.
• The concept of achieving plant and animal health (and, by extension, human health) through enhancing nature’s elegant processes showcases the potential of organic farming to restructure our entire human understanding of living systems.
• Since the soil fertility practices mentioned above nurture the built-in biological support processes of the natural world, knowledgeable organic farmers buy very few inputs. Those age-old techniques are all management practices, freely available to any farmer who is paying attention.
• In a well researched 1975 study from Washington University comparing organic and chemical farms, Barry Commoner noted ruefully how agriculture got to where it is today:
“One can almost admire the enterprise and clever salesmanship of the petro-chemical industry. Somehow it has managed to convince the farmer that he should give up the free solar energy that drives the natural cycles and, instead, buy the needed energy from the petro-chemical industry.”
• The self-resourced, farm-generated soil fertility techniques that power a biologically focused agriculture are logically anathema to any industry based on selling expensive inputs. That is why the agricultural chemical companies try so hard to discredit organic farming.