Green Gardens is now Certified Naturally Grown (CNG). This means that we follow the same USDA National Organic Program (NOP) standards that Certified Organic producers do; however, we decided not to become certified organic for three main reasons: cost, paperwork, and our close relationship to our customers.
CNG is a grassroots effort by over 750 farmers and ranchers across the country to provide an alternative to USDA Organic that’s tailored for small-scale, direct-market producers. The certification program is available only to farmers and ranchers that support local markets and sell directly to their customers, and therefore don’t need to buy into the expense, paperwork, or more agribusiness/wholesale focus of Organic.
CNG uses the publicly available USDA NOPStandards as the basis of our growing practices, however the program is NOT affiliated in any way with the USDA NOP and is not administered or overseen by the USDA or any other government agency. CNG uses an application process, inspections, and unlike the USDA Organic program, makes use of random pesticide residue testing to help ensure consumer confidence
Farmers commit to the following practices:
• Absolutely no use of synthetic chemical insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, or fertilizers on our crops
• Minimal and careful use of even Organically approved soil amendments and sprays
• Care for our soil, water and air quality with crop rotations, cover crops, protective buffer strips and ecologically sustainable farming practices
• No use of chemically treated or Genetically Modified seeds
• Humane treatment of livestock including the use of no hormones or antibiotic-laced feed and consistent access to pasture
• Adherence to sanitary post-harvest practices including proper transport, storage and the use of only potable water for the washing of produce
• A commitment to pass on the land and surrounding environment in an even better condition than it was passed on to us
We grow this way because we care about our families' and workers' health, the health of our friends and customers purchasing and enjoying our food, and because we want to be good, sustainable stewards of the small portion of this earth that has temporarily been put under our care.
CNG is supported by national environmental groups, health organizations and sustainable agricultural groups including the National Cancer Awareness Coalition, the Sierra Club’s Atlantic Chapter and the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM). For more information and to see the complete list of farms participating in the program nationwide, please visit www.naturallygrown.org on the web.
Below we will post information about the farm's growing practices in an effort to be as transparent as possible about how the food you are consuming is grown.
Many people still do not believe that it is possible to have a productive farm using organic farming practices. In fact, we believe that organic farming is the key to having wonderful crops while also treating the earth with respect. It was essentially the way everyone farmed for thousands of years before WWII. After the war, chemical industries adopted the wartime stockpiles of toxins used for chemical warfare and decided they could instead be applied to food crops. Using chemicals on our food has been a key component of modern industrial agriculture ever since. Fortunately, organic, small-scale agriculture represents a positive alternative that removes the need for all these toxins in our food, soil, air, water, and other biological life.
Green Gardens grows dozens of different vegetables with between 100-120 different varieties of vegetables, herbs, and flowers each year. Unfortunately, organic seed is not available for every variety. However, when it is, the farm does pay more and purchases organic seed. Organic seed normally costs between 20-90% more than conventionally grown seed. Typically, we find that it is possible to find organic seed about 40-50% of the time for a certain variety. Each year more organic seed is becoming available.
Even though we use organic seed when available, we don't lose sleep at night using conventional seed. Spray residues on seed are minimal and they are of far lesser concern to us than using toxic sprays on the vegetable plants and fruits to be sold and eaten. The farm's main seed suppliers are:
• Maine Potato Lady (Potatoes)
If you are interested in gardening and want to grow your plants from seed, we highly encourage getting a Johnny's catalog. You can also view it online as a PDF. They are free and have just about anything you could imagine, plus helpful growing advice.
Most of the time spraying crops is not necessary, however, we occasionally use organically-approved (OMRI) pesticides and fungicides. We do not use any herbicides. We find that we can minimize the need for organic pesticides by simply using row-cover, a thin, sheet-like material that we place over crops. Ultimately, we try to focus on soil building to help the plants repel pests and diseases naturally; however, we do find that we need to use an organic spray sometimes to avoid losing crops and we think that this is a reasonable approach.
Here is a list what we might need to spray and why:
Cabbage, Collards, Kale, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts:
The organic pesticide Dipel which contains Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) and Monterey Garden Spray which contains spinosad to kill cabbage loopers. Loopers eat holes in leaves. Also, on occasion in early spring plantings we will need to use Pyganic to prevent flea beetle damage.
Swiss Chard: Monterey Insect Garden Spay (Spinosad) to control leaf miner damage.
Tomatoes: Dipel (Bt) to kill the tomato hornworm, which can defoliate an entire plant in days. Also, we will use a copper fungicide (Champ WG) and Actinovate AG (soil drench in greenhouse) to protect the plant against a variety of diseases and funguses. These are the only two sprays that we use preventatively on the plants at an early age in the greenhouse. We are very concerned about blight on tomatoes, so to prevent this, we pro-actively spray before the fungus gets out of control.
Cucumbers, Squash: The organic pesticide Pyganic (contains Pyrethrum) to kill the cucumber beetles which can defoliate the plants and spread bacterial diseases like bacterial wilt.
Potatoes: Pyganic in combination with Monterey Garden Spray (contains Spinosad) to kill the Colorado Potato Beetle. The beetle, if left unsprayed, would defoliate plants and heavily reduce yield.
Onions and Leeks: Copper fungicide Champ WG to prevent disease and fungus.
We will contine to try to reduce our use of sprays each year, or finding sprays that are more eco-friendly. Our current policy is to only use them when the crop's life is in jeopardy, or if the quality of the fruit/vegetable will be compromised to the point where the customer is likely to find it undesirable for consumption.
An important point to remember is that the scale that we are on forces us to do some spraying. It is not as if we can simply go out and pick the potato beetles off of 2,000 potato plants like you can in a garden.
Ultimately, healthy soil enables most plants to defend against pests/diseases/funguses, so we plan on improving fertility each year. However, spraying may still be necessary every once in a while to help the farm produce food and remain economically competitive.
Cover cropping is a key component of sustainable organic farming systems. Instead of using synthetic fertilizers derived from oil for fertility, cover crops use solar energy to build soil organic matter content and increase the nutrient capacity of the soil to improve crop growth. Cover crops can also be used to clean soil of certain pests and diseases that would plague crops if the land was in continuous production. Two other key benefits of cover crops are nutrient retention due to decreased leaching of soil nutrients (the roots of cover crops will latch on to nutrients and prevent them from washing away down into the soil strata) and they are also a great attractant for beneficial insects that are either pollinators or pest predators. Here on the farm we use a variety of cover crops: soybeans, vetch, rye, mustard, oats, New Zealand white clover, and a rye/vetch mix.
Vetch and Rye in Spring 2009 West Field:
Crop Rotation is widely undervalued in conventional farming systems. It is essentially the use of smart management techniques to move crops around the growing field each year and follow crops with the right kind of crop the next season. By not planting the same crop in the same area over and over again, pest and disease pressure can be reduced greatly, as well as the need to fertilize.
ReeMay (in photo below on right) is a thin, lightweight sheet-like material that is placed over crops to protect them from below-freezing temperatures for season extension in the Spring and Fall, as well as to reduce the need for organic pesticides and fungicides.
Crop diversity is another key to organic systems. Monocultures tend to be plagued with pest and disease problems. Having a multitude of different crops and varieties cuts down on pests and diseases, and it also reduces our risks as farmers to massive crop failures. We grow over 120 varieties of vegetables, herbs, and flowers.
Planting Pest and Disease Resistant Varieties:
Sometimes just planting the right variety can make spraying unnecessary and yield great crops. Many new varieties are being developed with tolerances to pests and diseases.
Using "Waste" Byproducts on the Farm:
In 2009, the farm received several tons of yard waste (all leaves) from area yards. The landscape companies were more than happy to drop it off at our farm since we were saving them from a further trip to the dump or burn yard. In other words, it was a win-win for both of us. The "waste" will be utilized on the farm as a mulch for weed control in between beds are rows for various crops. Over the next 1-2 years it will be returned to the soil and provide wonderful organic nutrients perfect for plant growth. Using resources in this way is sustainable. Over the next couple years it would be nice if we could create a citywide composting system, whereby all food/yard waste is recycled back into local community gardens/farms for fertility. It just makes sense to utilize these resources in efficient ways, productive ways.