Field Notes

June 29, 2022

After a lot of thought we made the tough decision to surrender our Organic Certification on June 27th, 2022. 

Our farm suffered a really intense and mind-blowing grasshopper infestation this year. They first appeared on the farm last Summer(2021) following drought and local irrigation challenges. They took residence then, laid up their eggs, and re-emerged this June. Generally, grasshoppers are migratory and cyclical. As we have found we are the perfect storm for a yearly cycle. With lack of irrigation to flush them out and being an organic farm, the scope of our acreage allows no reasonable, approved pesticides available to us to control outbreaks like this. Farming, and in itself organic farming, is a blessing and a curse. In two weeks we watched half of our beautiful, Spring seeded pastures eaten down to bare earth and then quickly encroach into our neighbors crops. We had hoped to be baling up tons upon tons of hay right now for our livestock and community needs. We are so sorry. We'll try for it again next year! Our rotational grazing to preserve hay for baling was working wonderfully the past couple of months but with half the pasture gone we have now turned the cattle out the for full graze until Winter hits.

Our farm, along with adjoining neighbors were aerial sprayed with Dimilin (diflubenzuron) the morning of the 27th. It was impressively precise and also a heartbreaking process to watch out the windows. Dimilin is a 'low impact risk' pesticide specially formulated to halt the molt phases of grasshoppers before they mature and lay eggs. We really hope we caught them all in time as there were a few different hatches around the farm with first maturity estimated late June into early July. We also hope this is a one & done treatment for our farm and our surrounding neighbors. 

Prior to spraying and after some thoughtful conversation with the Oregon Tilth, our organic certifiers, it was determined that the use of Dimilin would not be approved to allow us to retain organic certification. We know restricted materials are allowed under certain situations when all other methods have been exhausted. We aren't sure what those impacts and hardships have to be for a particular restricted material to be used but it's OK and we understand not everyone can get a pass. We were given the option to either surrender our certification, move our farm to transitional organic for 36 months, or re-apply for organic certification in 36 months. 3 years is the sweet spot for soils to be considered organic following the date of last restricted inputs.

In garlic news, we are excitedly waiting to harvest our garlic. They are quickly increasing in size underneath our mulch film as I write this. Scapes are still emerging and we estimate that bulb harvest within 3 weeks. We pulled a couple of Romanian Reds this afternoon to check health & size and they are already over 2". Amazing! That being said, our garlic, though tended in all organic ways up until June 27th is now considered conventionally farmed garlic. We are so very sorry to share this news to those that were hoping to obtain certified product from us this season.

Will we move back to Certified Organic in 3 years? Scott & I have discussed this at length and we are not sure at this time. In truth, it's really expensive to be certified and it's really expensive to buy certified seeds - pasture seeds, produce seeds and livestock feeds. We just watched it get all eaten up. I am so very relieved I won't have to manage the intensive record keeping that's required anymore. Do we believe in organic farming? Yes, we do. Will we continue to practice the standards of organic farming? Yes, we will as best we can. We know what's required to be organic by practices and standards and we do not need that certification in hand in order to be clean farmers. We do value certification and it certainly is important for other certified buyers and other consumers that rely on the organic label. We are not sure if everything that goes along with being certified would eventually be sustainable for us as a small family farm. It is not sustainable for us at the present. We have come to know that organic certification is only as good as a farmer's honesty come annual inspection time. There are no soil testing requirements for certification and no one is looking over shoulders in day to day operations. We know where we stand with our integrity and we will always be transparent about our practices so our customers can make their right choices. 

Thank you for being here. Farming isn't perfect and is truly a continual act of hope - it always looks forward to the future.