Certified organic. It sounds very official, and it requires a lot of paperwork and record keeping to legally get to call our produce “organic,” but what does that organic label really mean? At the most basic level it means that we don’t use any synthetic chemicals. But this simple definition misses how much we do in order to insure that our plants remain healthy through all of the environmental stresses present during your average growing season.
For example, take potting mix, which we’ve been working a lot with recently. When we started farming we went out and bought a pallet of commercially produced certified organic potting mix. Unfortunately just because this mix did not have any synthetic products and was thus certifiable, did not mean that it provided a healthy growing medium for starting our plants. We tried two or three other brands of organic potting mix, and were similarly unimpressed by the results. So we decided that we would have to make our own. Fortunately we knew a more experienced grower who was making high quality potting mix and who very generously shared his sources for some of the materials that we needed. Today we make a mix that contains really high quality locally produced compost, peat, vermiculite, perlite, an innoculant and some high quality balanced organic fertilizer. The innoculant is a package of beneficial bacteria that help the plant take up nutrients. Just as we know the role that good bacteria play in our health so we also have to make sure that our plants have the healthiest environment possible from the moment of germination. Finally the organic fertilizer is a blend that has the full complement of macro and micronutrients that plants need to thrive.
All in all it took us many batches of potting mix to get a blend that really got our plants off to a good start. And while both our mix and the commercial mixes that we experimented with initially are allowed in organic agriculture we know that our mix produces healthier plants! OK enough writing about potting mix…time to go start more seeds! Be sure to check back in with us throughout the season. We’ll try to show you what goes into producing healthy, organic food.