Tag Archives: certified organic

Native Son Farm A Real Showplace

Last Friday, it was my privilege to attend a board meeting of the Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network (MSAN) held at Native Son Farm in Tupelo, MS. It’s a real showplace!

Will Reed talks about the chemical-free crops he's planted, March 7, 2014. To look at it, you wouldn't know from this photo that Will and Amanda Reed's Native Son Farm is smack dab in the center of Tupelo, MS. It's surrounded by houses and subdivisions. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Will Reed talks about the chemical-free crops he’s planted, March 7, 2014. To look at it, you wouldn’t know from this photo that Will and Amanda Reed’s Native Son Farm is smack dab in the center of Tupelo, MS. It’s surrounded by houses and subdivisions. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

If anyone has ever visited the farm, the first thing that stands out is that it’s rather spread out. By that, Will and Amanda Reed and their toddler live in one house, they have a farm stand about a mile down the road from that, and they have a 30-acre or so plot in the middle of town. They do farming on each spot.

Farmer Will Reed shows visitors some of the 3,000 plants he has started for planting in coming weeks at the high tunnel behind his house at Tupelo, MS, March 7, 2014. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Farmer Will Reed shows visitors some of the 3,000 plants he has started for planting in coming weeks at the high tunnel behind his house at Tupelo, MS, March 7, 2014. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

For example, behind their house they have a high tunnel with about 3,000 plants started. From that, they expect to have about 15,000 to 20,000 tomato plants to feed their 250-member CSA. Will says he intends to start setting plants out around April 15.

Talk about urban agriculture, their 30-acre plot is in the center of town, surrounded by houses and subdivisions. They already have strawberries growing there for their CSA’s first food boxes in coming weeks. Their farm stand (where the MSAN board met) is big enough to house a good-sized dinner party or banquet if they were of a mind to do it. In one room, for example, where their walk-in coolers are located, they had a vintage Allis Chalmers tractor. (Will says he uses it to pull weeds.)

A vintage Allis Chalmers tractor is housed in a back room of Will and Amanda Reed's Native Son Farm. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

A vintage Allis Chalmers tractor is housed in a back room of Will and Amanda Reed’s Native Son Farm. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

But even with all this spaciousness, it’s still a family farm. Daughter Magnolia, 1 1/2, is at home on the place as are Will and Amanda. That’s a major driver for them to use organic growing methods. Native Son Farm is Certified Naturally Grown (www.naturallygrown.org), a type of third-party certification that is well suited for direct-market growers who sell locally.

Little Magnolia, one and a half years old, enjoys the wonders of nature with Farmer/Mom Amanda Reed at their chemical-free Certified Naturally Grown Native Son Farm in Tupelo, MS, March 7, 2014. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Little Magnolia, one and a half years old, enjoys the wonders of nature with Farmer/Mom Amanda Reed at their chemical-free Certified Naturally Grown Native Son Farm in Tupelo, MS, March 7, 2014. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

As Will and Amanda note on their website (www.nativesonfarm.com) this expansion of their farm is rather new. “Will became interested in farming while living off the grid in California in 2006.  After graduating from Humboldt State University in 2009, Will moved back to Tupelo to begin Native Son Farm.

“Amanda grew up off the grid in Thetford, Vermont.  As a child, self sufficiency and living off the land were basic family values.  This instilled in her an interest in farming for production.  She met Will at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California, where she received  a degree in Child Development.  After graduation, she joined Will in Tupelo to begin Native Son Farm.”

They started with a 3/4-acre garden which grew to a 10-acre farm feeding 150 families to the 250 families and 25 acres in production today.

Since he already employs organic growing methods, Will says he might switch to USDA certified organic if he starts to sell to large grocery stores where he can command a higher price to pay for it, but for now, CNG suits him fine.

They are proud to state they are “Committed to growing healthy, chemical free fruits and vegetables for our community…”

The Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Board of Directors meets at the farm stand of Native Son Farm in Tupelo, MS, March 7, 2014. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

The Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Board of Directors meets at the farm stand of Native Son Farm in Tupelo, MS, March 7, 2014. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Will is the president of the MSAN Board of Directors. I’m on the board and also am a former board member and serve in an advisory capacity for CNG.

Will and Amanda (and Magnolia!) are fine folks who practice natural, sustainable and organic growing methods worthy of highlighting as a demonstration or teaching farm, and it was great fun to visit on Friday.

For more on MSAN, see: http://www.mssagnet.net

Here’s a video on Native Son Farm: http://www.mssagnet.net/programs/featured-farms/native-son-farm/

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, and former organic farmer now teaching natural, sustainable and organic agricultural practices. His latest book is Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press). Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @EdiblePrayers or @OrganicWriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

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Certified organic no longer in Miss.?

Nov. 25, 2011

Certified organic ‘thing of the past’ in Mississippi?

Is having certified organic farms a thing of the past in Mississippi?
Maybe, maybe not. But the idea of it certainly caught a lot of organic growers by surprise at last week’s Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association conference in Vicksburg.
Dr. Bill Evans, Mississippi State University Truck Crops Experiment Station expert, told the group that as of Dec. 31, the state Department of Agriculture would no longer be a certifying agent for Mississippi growers.
The reason, he said, was budget cuts; it costs more than $3,000 per grower for the state to certify them as organic under the National Organic Program.
What this means for growers is that if one is already certified, he or she must turn to an outside agency to maintain certification, and pay for it out of pocket.
Flying in a certifier from another state and providing food and lodging can cost hundreds, perhaps, thousands of dollars. That’s a cost few farms can afford, especially mom-and-pop operations.
If one is wanting certification, but hasn’t obtained it, this means that one would have to apply for out-of-state certification – with no guarantees of availability.
There are only about 25 certified organic farms in the state. That number is likely to decline – dramatically.
For consumers, what this means is that if one is wanting certified organic produce, more of it will be from out of state, and possibly, foreign countries.
The upshot of all this, in my opinion, is that a simmering national issue in organics is locally coming to a head: small producers versus big producers.
One of the founders of the modern organic movement is Eliot Coleman of Four Seasons Farm in Maine. He was an adviser to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in formulating the organic program. But he has come to believe that giant food conglomerates have taken over the “organic” label to the detriment of sincere small farmers.
“In my opinion, ‘organic’ is now dead as a meaningful synonym for the highest quality food,” Coleman says. (See his full remarks, at:http://www.fourseasonfarm.com/pdfs/beyondorganic.pdf). He rejects organic
certification in favor of the term and procedures he defines as Authentic Food: Beyond Organic.
I think he’s on the right track; but with a caveat. I also believe that Maria Rodale, author of Organic Manifesto: How Organic Farming Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World, and Keep Us Safe, has to say about certified organic.
The granddaughter of one of the founders of the organic movement, J.I. Rodale, and CEO of Rodale Inc., she applauds the rise of organics under USDA supervision. She says, without it, safe, pesticide-free organic food would not be so widespread in supermarkets and available to consumers at an affordable price.
She’s got a point. But, honestly, I think there should be a middle way.
The paperwork (not to mention increasing expense) to be certified is ridiculous for a small farmer (5 to 10 acres; or under $50,000 gross).
Small farmers already cannot compete in price with giant 3,000-acre certified organic factory farms. That’s certainly not what the founders had in mind with the term “organic.” It’s not what the public expects, either.
There ought to be two tiers of USDA certification:
•One voluntary and inexpensive for small farmers, as is now done under the private Certified Naturally Grown process, with cooperative, volunteer third-party inspections;
•The other would be mandatory third-party government inspection, as with certified organic now, but for larger farms (above $50,000 gross), or those using government grants, loans or subsidies.
In any event, without some certifying agency, some Mississippians might have to do as Coleman suggests: Buy local and know your farmer. That’s more important than any government stamp, anyway.
•Recipe: From my beautiful wife Annette: Have blueberry bushes?If you do, chances are the leaves have turned a beautiful bright red. Now is the time to pick some, dry them at room temp and crumble for a delicious and high anti-oxidant tea.
Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Organic flowers, fruit

March 25, 2011

Flowers, fruit can be grown organically, not just veggies

This weather has me all messed up plantwise. Everything I know about weather is topsy-turvey with temperatures now averaging 14 degrees above normal.

Usually, here in central Mississippi, we have a few warm days in March that get everyone excited about planting gardens, then a hard frost comes, and some folks have to start all over again.

But this year, it’s been hot in March. Our spinach, collards and other cool weather fall-planted crops are going to seed, yet I just can’t get myself to risk planting so early (before Good Friday).

Annette’s been busy in the garden, planting cool weather plants such as onions, garlic, herbs, peas, arugula, kale, chard, red salad greens, Asian stir fry mix, carrots and snow peas, and in the greenhouse getting tomatoes, squash, peppers, melons and other warm weather plants started.

We’ll probably set them out in the next couple of weeks (going by weather rather than calendar and hoping for the best. Remember, we have had ice storms before at the end of March!).

We have Wall ‘o Waters for the tomatoes (plastic rings that you fill with water to hold heat at night) and Agribon covers for rows if there’s a chance of frost.

Right now, if you’re going to gamble on the weather, treat it like the stock market: Don’t risk more than you can afford to lose.

Tips and reminders:

•Use certified organic seeds;

•Use OMRI, the Organic Materials Review Institute, approved garden or potting soil (Miracle Gro makes one called Organic Choice that’s sold locally, even at Walmart);

•Use ecologically sound containers, such as those from recycled paper (Peaceful Valley -www.groworganic.com – even sells a kit to make your own pots from old newspapers);

•Or, use reusable containers such as smart pots and grow bags (from recycled materials);

•Or, use pots that can be planted, such as “cow pots,” made from composted cow manure, or Coir (coconut fiber) that can be used instead of sphagnum peat moss, which is being depleted from the Earth (large-scale peat harvesting is not sustainable as it takes thousands of years to form the peat “bricks” that are harvested in just a week; look for companies with sustainable harvesting methods).

•Think: Sustainable!

Fruits, berries, roses … As stated previously, it was my honor earlier this year to be elected to the board of the Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, but I’ve found that quite a few of my colleagues are unaware they can easily “grow organic,” just as gardeners can.

One prominent grower in Mississippi told me that he would love to be organic, but “you can’t do it without fungicides.”

I was so flabbergasted, I didn’t know what to say, and just stood there with my mouth open.

Obviously, there has not been enough information promulgated about organics in general or fungicides in particular.

Not only commercial fruit, berry and vegetable growers, but even folks who grow such temperamental flowers as roses can grow organically without damaging the environment, spreading or breathing toxic waste or poisoning the air, soil and water.

Now, Annette and I are what’s called “deep organic” (in Eliot Coleman’s terms) or purists, maybe: that is, we don’t use any chemicals, period. It takes a little bit more thought and effort (and occasional setbacks), to be sure.

But there are a number of weed, disease and pest control applications that are certified organic by OMRI that meet all National Organic Standards. They are easy to use, safe, widely available and affordable for hobbyists as well as commercial growers.

A sampling from just one catalog lists:

•Cease – a bacterium that eradicates powdery mildew, several leaf spot and soil diseases;

•OxiDate – a broad spectrum bactericide/fungicide that uses rapid oxidation to kill unwanted bacteria and fungi;

•Liquid Copper Fungicide – targeting diseases on grapes, vegetables, fruit, berries, roses, pine and cedar trees and more;

•Safer Brand Garden Fungicide – for fruit, vegetables, flowering plants and ornamentals;

•Plantshield – Fungicide protects roots, can be used for seeds, cuttings, transplants, and can be used as a drench or spot dressed directly for foliar-infecting fungi.

Mind you, these are just fungicides (addressing my friend’s concerns). You can find whole sections of natural, biodegradable, non-toxic products for a range of issues specifically for fruit trees, berries, vegetables, flowers and what have you.

These examples are from: Arbico, Box 8910, Tucson AZ, 85738-0910. Phone: 1-800-827-2847. (It even offers natural, plant-based, non-toxic bedbug killers).

So, it’s not as if the resources aren’t out there; they just aren’t being advertised or promoted by the agri-biz conglomerates.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.