In the United States, the National Organic Program (NOP) is the federal regulatory framework governing organic food production. It establishes standards and practices that are required for organic certification and to use the USDA Organic symbol and refer to your produce as “Organic.” Summer Wind Farms has been USDA certified organic since 2013. We take our organic certification seriously. It’s an important factor that makes Summer Wind Farms and other certified organic farms recognizably different.
Some farmers refer to their product as “Organic” or claim to use “Organic Practices” without having gone through the rigorous certification process. As a farm that takes the responsibility of providing our CSA members, retail markets and wholesale customers with wholesome food we object to these deceptive statements. We tend to liken these farmers to a doctor or lawyer who isn’t licensed but uses ‘proper medical’ or ‘legally sound’ techniques without getting the certification or licensing. Would you patronize an unlicensed doctor or attorney?
Obtaining USDA Organic Certification does take some time and does have some modest costs (NJ offers grants to offset some of the cost) however by no means is the time or money involved a significant obstacle to organic certification. A non-certified farm can do whatever they want regarding their productions practices including the use of synthetic pesticides and GMO’s. You only have their word that they use ‘organic practices.’ If you want to verify if a farmer really is USDA certified organic visit this site and search for their farm: https://organic.ams.usda.gov/Integrity/.
At Summer Wind Farms, we believe that a big part of our mission is to be open and transparent about what we do and why we do it. That’s why we have no problem sharing our growing practices with the public. Below is a quick summary:
We use cover cropping and pasteurized poultry manure to develop healthy soil and build lasting fertility.
We fight plant diseases using resistant varieties, crop timing, and OMRI approved bio fungicides like beneficial bacteria and other approved methods.
We enhance our crops competitiveness with weed pressure through various cultural practices like high density planting, row spacing and crop timing. We also control weeds mechanically using cultivation, mowing, hand weeding and mulching.
We control insects and other plant predators first by utilizing resistant varieties, crop timing, and physical barriers and only then with OMRI approved non-synthetic insecticides. These insecticides are typically beneficial bacteria that act only on the targeted insect. We also take care to use products and time applications to eliminate any risk to our precious pollinator bees.
About 85% of our production is irrigated using ‘drip irrigation’ which utilizes small recyclable plastic tubing with micro water emitters imbedded every few inches in the tubing. This system dramatically reduces our water use and results in virtually zero runoff, protecting our lakes and streams. In addition to water, the tubing can be used to deliver liquid organic fertilizers, natural bactericides and fungicides as well as microbial inoculants to enhance our soils.
100% of the plastics we use on the farm are recycled.
Our culled, uneatable vegetables go to feed our workers flock of fifty or so ‘barn yard’ chickens or our neighbors 'Berkshire' breed hogs.
There are a few crops that we do not grow organically, among these are some of the closely spaced greens like arugula and spinach as well as certain root crops like radishes and carrots. On the items that we do not grow organically, these are grown on separate farms from our organic production. We do not use any synthetic insecticides on these crops. We also meticulously practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to minimize our environmental impacts on our non-organic land.
Our farm has never and does not now, grow any Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) crops, either organically or conventionally.
On many of our crops we also utilize ‘high tunnel’ growing. A high tunnel is a tunnel covered with long lasting polyethylene film supported by a steel structure resembling a greenhouse. The interior heats up because the incoming solar radiation warms the soil, air and plants faster than the heat can escape the tunnel. Typically, no auxiliary heat is added. The warm air inside the tunnel is retained by the polyethylene roof and sidewalls protecting the plants from cold temperatures, both in the spring and the fall. Temperature, humidity and ventilation are controlled by closing or opening the sidewalls as the plants needs dictate. The high tunnels enhance our crops viability at the edge of the growing seasons. But just as importantly they allow us complete control of the amount of water that contacts the plants foliage and roots. This dramatically minimizes disease, making high tunnel production ideal for organic growing.
Farm work is hard. It needs to be done in all kinds of weather, from cleaning the snow off greenhouses in the dead of winter to harvesting crops, low to the ground, in one-hundred-degree heat. The hours are long and the pay is not great. We cannot do what we do, provide wholesome food for our community, without the dedication of our tremendous employees. Many of them are immigrants or they travel here seasonally to work the land, leaving their loved ones behind. It’s not unlike what our family members did when arriving here from Italy almost a century ago. Our family’s history along with working side by side with these fine people, often sharing a laugh, a tragedy or a beer after work, is why we feel our workers are part of our family. We treat them with the respect and dignity they have earned and deserve. Without them we are nothing.