The Soil & Soul of Organic Farming

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In 2013 we named our farm Good Heart Farmstead with a nod to the soil.

You see, when soil is “in good heart” it means that it’s alive and healthy.  And of course, we know that when people are in good heart, they’re healthy and happy.

Through our time spent working on farms, attending conferences, reading books, and learning from other farmers, Edge and I knew that soil is the base of every healthy farm. That healthy soil is so much more than NPK—the macro-nutrients of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.  It’s also the micro-nutrients, the level of organic matter, the microscopic beings that make up living soil.

At the heart of it, the healthiest and most nutritious food is grown in healthy, living soil.

That’s why we’ve always grown organically.  Because it’s better for you as eaters, better for us as farmers, and better for the environment.

Because when we farm with the soil in mind, we farm as part of an interconnected ecosystem.  While we may never understand all the intricacies of the fields we cultivate, we approach our work with respect and humbleness, and the understanding that growing healthy, nutritious food begins by taking care of the soil.

Because healthy, living soil is the foundation of the organic farming movement.  

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In 2016 we became officially certified organic.  This mattered to us, because we wanted a clear way to communicate what our farming practices are with you.  We believed in the value and trust that comes with certification, and we welcomed the third-party organic inspector.

At the end of that first visit, our inspector remarked, “You don’t use any pesticides?”  Apparently, we were among a small handful of organic farms she’d visited who didn’t use pesticides at all.  As we’ve gone through the certification process, we’ve learned there are actually many things allowed under organic standards that we personally don’t feel comfortable using at Good Heart.  Still, we believed that the organic certification was the best standard.

In the fall of 2017, however, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted 8-7 to allow hydroponic growing—food grown without soil— to be certified organic.  This was a reversal of their 2010 decision, which banned hydroponics by a 12-1 vote.  Read more about that in this short Farewell Warning to Organics.

Since then, the USDA has limited the NOSB’s scope of work, and the NOSB will no longer be able to address questions about organic integrity or big issues facing organic farming.  Instead, their role will be focused only on approved and prohibited substances.  At the same time, the USDA has recently allowed CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) to be certified organic.

So what does this have to do with you?

As our customer and community member, it matters to us that you know and trust our growing methods. 

And as organic farmers, we see the landscape and integrity of the organic label drastically shifting away from soil and farming methods that work with and protect the environment.

You are always welcome to ask us questions about our growing practices and methods we use, and we encourage you to reach out anytime.

We will continue to farm organically, to responsibly work the soil, and to stay rooted to our name: Good Heart.

So much of this shift has come about so the conventional farming industry can hop on the growing organic movement.  We know that you value organic food, and because of that, we invite you as an eater to learn more about what’s happening in organic.

Dave Chapman, a fellow Vermont organic farmer, has helped spearhead the Real Organic Project, an organization working to bring integrity back to the organic label.  He gives a clear overview of what’s happened and where organic is headed, and you can read that here.

Thank you for being part of Good Heart.

We are honored to be your farmers, and we take the responsibility of growing your food to heart.

We eat what we grow, we feed Waylon what we grow (more often we have to tell him to stop pulling the carrots every time he walks by a carrot bed!), and we’ll continue to stay rooted in the soil.

In Good Heart,
Kate & Edge

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