Organic

Organic.  This is why we farm.  This is the soul of our work.  We LOVE to see our customers asking and caring about organic farming.  It's one of our most frequently asked questions, and one of our favorite ones to talk about.

Question: Is Farmivore's produce organic?

Answer (short version): Yes!  Our own home farm (McGrath Family Farmers) is certified organic, and we also buy from certified organic farms that we have close relationships with.  We also proudly buy from local, small family farms that have opted not to obtain third-party certification, and farm using sustainable, ecological methods with a starting requirement of no synthetic pesticides applied to harvested crops.  We go out of our way to support farms that demonstrate commitment to soil building and fertility through organic amendments, crops rotations, and employ Integrated Pest Management through beneficial insects, physical barriers and pest removal, and other methods that do not poison or pollute the earth.

Longer Version: (want to learn more?  Please read on...)

Disclaimer: if you are more concerned with a government label than with facts and community relationships, this page probably won't interest you, and you'll want to take your business elsewhere.  We DO sell products from farms that cannot legally use the term USDA Organic because they don't pay for the certification.  Like Louie in Camarillo who grows 2 acres of avocados as a retirement project and works with his grand-kids to harvest them.  Or Serena in Fillmore whose 3-generation family bought an old citrus orchard to rehabilitate, and harvests them with her sons.  Or young Alex and Elaine in Upper Ojai who use organic seed in an organic medium in their backyard to grow the best microgreens you've ever tasted.   We embrace and applaud certified organic farms, but don't turn away a farm if they can show us they are truly walking the walk, and growing without toxic chemicals.

We are passionate about land stewardship, and providing access to clean, chemical free food.  We view Organic as a philosophy and movement, and not simply a label.  We invite our customers and communities to ask questions, learn more, look beyond the label, and carry the spirit of the organic movement forward.  

What is that spirit?  When you buy organic produce, what are you seeking?  Presumably, your first goal is not to be eating pesticides.  Amen.  We will never buy from a farm that sprays your food with pesticides.  

But let's not stop there.  What about soil building?  Native plants and water conservation?  What about preserving and passing down family farms?  What about providing farm workers with decent pay and working conditions?  What about supporting young entrepreneurs trying to break into farming, and create a future for American Agriculture?  What about forming relationships with your farmers?  What about knowing their names?

If these sound important, read on.

Ultimately, all these things rest on trust, which is nurtured by relationship.  A label seeks to instill trust in consumers that a farmer is following a certain set of standards, and that a third party has verified it.  It's a good idea, but it's not bulletproof, and it leaves something still to be desired.  The cost of certification is steep, and farming is a risky business with narrow margins and hard work.  Many farmers carry debt for their entire careers.  Should we as consumers walk away with disgust at the absence of a label?  Or should we listen, engage, and admit that most things in life (particularly in vibrant living systems like a farm) are more complex than first glance?

My philosophy is that labels are useful when selling through sales channels that don't provide relationships with the farmer.  But Farmivore is different.  We know our farmers.  I don't just want to see our farmers' certification papers.  I want to talk to them, walk their farms, get to know them and learn their story.  I can learn more about that farm by visiting it than just by looking at certification papers.  We have a lofty goal: promote community conversation and trust about the growing practices we want to see, and letting that conversation go both ways.  Let's engage, and listen.  

I love highlighting examples of farms that go over and above the USDA Organic requirements.  The problem is, the label doesn't tell you about those examples.  For example, John Givens runs his own on-farm composting program and converts every scrap of unused plant material on him farm into soil-building compost for his crops!  That is amazing!  NOT required by USDA organic, and John IS certified organic.  When you buy certified organic produce from a farmer you don't know, is that farmer running his own compost operation?  You'll never know.  But when you buy from Farmivore, we tell you this sort of thing, because we care enough to find out, and film videos on site to literally let you see it for yourself!  Folks, isn't that cool!?  That's my idea of a certification system that relies on community knowledge and trust.  The sort of thing Wendell Berry and Joel Salatin would be proud of.

So, John's an example of a certified organic farm that goes far beyond the organic standards because he believes in soil building.  Let's take a look at Alex and Elaine in Upper Ojai who grow sunflower microgreens out of their backyard.  Alex and Elaine are not certified organic.  They are entrepreneurs, they are raising two lovely children, and they want to farm.  They're starting in their backyard as Alex also works full time for another grower in Oxnard, and partners with a friend to run a local apple cider business on the side.  I personally helped Alex set up his greens operation, and I can look you in the eye and tell you he's buying organic seed, and growing in organic approved mediums, and applying nothing but water to his greens.  If he got organic certification, every penny he's making would go back out the door.  We are stoked to be saving him that money and letting him invest instead in his family and business as he builds his way up.

I invite you to learn more about the farms we work with, and I welcome your questions.  We are working on creating profiles for each farm we work with on the Farmivore site.  Although certification plays a role, particularly in situations where you can't meet your farmer, our hope is that we keep "organic" a "movement", and not simply a label.  Legally we cannot call un-certified products organic, and we don't.  But we do appeal to your principles and ask you what you are looking for when you seek organic food.  I think we've captured the spirit of the movement, and are carrying it forward.

Inlakesh smell a handful of compost, teeming with life, before it is applied on the fields at McGrath Family of Farmers.

Steaming Compost Piles at John Givens Farm

This attachment above is a "Bug Vacuum," used at Rancho La Familia to suck pests right off the plants.  They have chosen not to pay for organic certification after doing so for several years, but this does not mean they are spraying their crops.  We have verified with Omar that they are not using any products on their crops that are not allowed in certified organic production.  By no longer being certified, the farm is saving over $11,000 per year in organic registration costs.

Fun on the Compost Pile!

Baby Root Farm (part of the McGrath Family of Farmers) BEFORE applying regernative permaculture techniques to this 1-acre plot.

Three years later, this plot has been transformed with compost, wood chipping, and native plants!  And now, Mike is starting to employ the same transformative process on 20 more acres elsewhere on the McGrath Ranch!

Mike samples a handful of the farm-made compost at John Givens Farm, which is applied between every planting.