We have added the section (see below) to our website under the category About Greer Farm
to be more specific on the direction we are going in our agriculture activities and to set a high standard for ourselves that is reachable and benefits the farm, our environment and us.
Our farm has seen major changes and evolved dramatically from where it was in 1979 when acquired to where it is today. Originally, it was part of an an overgrown plantation taken out of production in the middle of the depression about 1938. Mixed forest replaced most of the 550 acres and by the time we acquired over 250 acres of it only about 35 acres remained clear for production. Our Rocky Branch Grass Ranch had a different experience with all of it remaining open and in production, but terribly abused by intensive farming techniques and irrigation.
Over the years, we have segmented the land we own into managed mixed forest land of pine and hardwoods, planted pine plantation, crop land and pastures for fruit and berries, hay and animal production. It would have been impossible to accomplish this using organic standards. It just could not have happened. Some will debate me, but to clear and maintain fences, control invasive species of woody plants and weeds that preclude crop or animal production and create an environment where we can farm and make a profit took non-organic means.
Today, we have reached a point where we use a very small amount of non-organic artificial inputs, but we still do so when we need to. Examples are spraying for species of plants that will kill our horses if left in the field. We use herbicides to allow our young blueberry plants to survive. In time, we can probably eliminate most if not all of those used on the berries as the plants mature and we can just use a weed trimmer on the rows. We spend more time now grubbing by hand out thistles so we do not have to spray. Two years ago Dog Fennel
appeared in one pasture. This year it tripled in frequency. To not allow the seeds to pass on into other pastures we cut hay early in that pasture. We will use a specific herbicide in 2010 and eliminate it before it overtakes the grasses in the pasture. Every year our level of non-organic inputs gets smaller and smaller.
I have issues with organic standards, but can not change them. For one, it is expensive to get certified and stay certified for what you get out of it. People are not willing to pay that much of a higher price for food certified orgainic. Some of the rules are stupid. As an example, you can have a pre-existing creosote treated fence post or pole in a field and after the three year process to become organic it is okay for it to remain as it was preexisting. You can not add a new post after that and stay organic certified. Well, that original post is leaching the same amount of creosote no mater what the certification is. Fertilizer is another point. There is a long list of organic certified fertilizers which are great if you are not covering hundreds of acres. They say you can use chicken litter on large acreage and be organic, but who wants the hazards
being identified all the time
by this "organic" fertilizer
. Chemical fertilizer is made from natural gas. Natural gas is a type of hydrocarbon which evolved from decaying plants. If oil is spilled on the ground and left, in time nature's bacteria and various organisms will eat it and it will return to an organic form. When there are major oil spills, the treatment method that works best is organic. So if natural gas based fertilizer is organic based, why can it not be classified as "organic"
In any case, this and other similar debates will continue. For our farm and ranch, we shall do the best we can and try to be an example in balanced and sane techniques that will allow us to be recognized as a Center if Excellence in Sustainable Agriculture.Our goal is to be a Center of Excellence in Sustainable Agriculture demonstrating that a family farm can be profitable, practice environmental stewardship and produce a stable food supply and timber in perpetuity without degrading the natural resources that support the production processes.
What is sustainable agriculture?
Sustainable Agriculture is a way of growing food that is healthy, does not harm the environment, respects workers, is humane to animals, provides a fair wage to the farmer, and supports farming communities. Characteristics of this type of agriculture include: conservation and preservation, biodiversity, animal welfare, economic viability and socially just. (from sustainabletable.org)
What are the differences between sustainable and organic agriculture? When is organic not sustainable?
Both organic and sustainable agriculture strive to preserve the land for generations to come and have many similarities, but one system is not necessarily better than the other. The main difference between the two methods of production is that organic food production must be certified yearly by an independent third-party certifier approved by the US Department of Agriculture. Sustainable food has no independent certification process, and the consumer must rely on the word of the farmer. In addition, sustainability is more of a philosophy or way of life, whereas organic is a specific set of government-verified standards. (from sustainabletable.org). On our farm and ranch we will use the minimum of artificial inputs, but recognize that to be good stewards of the land and be profitable we cannot be organic.