Hasso Explains Eco-ganic vs. Organic and More!

Hasso Ewing (lead grower at BBFg):

It is hard to believe it’s the mid­dle of August and this is the first time I have con­tributed to
this blog! The gar­den is at it peak, the pigs are joy­fully chomp­ing on a new field of Sudan
grass, chick­ens are fat­ten­ing up, while oth­ers con­tinue to lay faith­fully. The mid­dle of the
sum­mer, the point at which we are draw­ing the most from the earth by grow­ing plants
and animals.

This piece of land we have come to farm has been very pro­duc­tive. Partly
because it abuts a wet meadow and because it’s aspect is south­east. It hadn’t been
farmed for more than 20 years and even then it was likely just ani­mals, not veg­eta­bles.
It’s deep and organic in nature, lots of decom­pos­ing plant mate­r­ial, as opposed to
min­eral (rocky or sandy) soils. It holds water like a sponge , con­se­quently we haven’t
had to rely on irri­ga­tion, thus far.

Our prox­im­ity to the wet­land brings in insects, drag­on­flies and but­ter­flies. Our
tomato trel­lis may not have been strong enough to han­dle the weight of the many large
fruits, but the trel­lis did sup­port the land­ing site for many fledg­ling barn swal­low clutches
out on their first flight. Blue­birds, too, used the wooden posts to hunt for early spring
bugs.

The elec­tric fence that sur­rounds both the veg­etable patches, the pigs and the meat
chick­ens pro­tects our charges from ani­mals that would also like a local source of fresh
organ­i­cally grown food. Dave did his home­work on the best fence plan for our site. Our
fences aren’t high (2 ½’) but they were baited with peanut but­ter. Appar­ently, most
ani­mals like peanut but­ter and will go for the PB before they jump in for the ani­mals or
vege. But when they lick the PB on the foil, hang­ing over the elec­tric fence, they get a
shock­ing response! Hap­pens once, they don’t come near again and what’s more, they
tell their fam­ily and friends. So, we have been lucky, again… thus far.

We have exper­i­mented with walk­way man­age­ment to lessen weed pres­sure and
increase soil fer­til­ity. Some rows are card­board from the bike shop (nice big pieces) with
old hay from Con­cord DWP projects on top. We planted white clover in oth­ers and then
mowed when weeds were top­ping the clover. That gives clover the advan­tage and it
takes over. We brought in com­post for seed­ing and trans­plant­ing in the rows from a local
farm and amend­ments (rock dust, myc­or­rhizal organ­isms and sea­weed mixes) from
away. We decided to use some plas­tic as mulch in the rows, as much as I hated to. The
area clos­est to the wet­land would have been weed hell if it were not for black plas­tic
mulch. That’s under the toma­toes, egg­plants, pep­pers and squash. They love the extra
heat and mois­ture reten­tion plas­tic offers. We also use row cover, which is spun plas­tic.
That pro­tects our plants from pests with­out using pesticides.

We are grow­ing our plants and ani­mals organ­i­cally and, if we choose, could get
organic cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pretty quickly, I imag­ine. Gen­er­ally, you have to tran­si­tion over a
period of 3 years to organic because the land has to be cleansed. But since this land
hasn’t been farmed for so long we could prove it’s clean enough.

Organic, nat­ural, and eco-ganic would describe our farm. Organic, because we
don’t use any chem­i­cally (man-made) fer­til­iz­ers, her­bi­cides or pes­ti­cides and we fol­low
national organic stan­dards, but are not ‘cer­ti­fied organic’.

There is ‘cer­ti­fied nat­ural’ being used now in the US. It has been around for a
while in other coun­tries but now some Amer­i­can farm­ers are using nat­ural cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in
response to organic cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. Organic cer­ti­fi­ca­tion poli­cies are very dif­fi­cult for the

small farm to adhere to. They are lengthy, expen­sive and the record keep­ing
require­ments are over the top. Nat­ural cer­ti­fi­ca­tion has a $75 annual fee, has far less
unnec­es­sary report­ing and uses peer review to over­see stan­dards. This review process
is a nice aspect because it is bring­ing local farm­ers together.

Then there is eco-ganic. Eco-ganic is defined by Potomac Veg­etable Farm as a
process by which a farm main­tains rich organic soils, full of ben­e­fi­cial microbes, to
pro­vide the crops with suf­fi­cient nutri­ents and a healthy envi­ron­ment. The farm can’t use
any syn­thetic fer­til­iz­ers or pes­ti­cides, they rotate crops, grow many dif­fer­ent kinds of
crops, and use timely and appro­pri­ate prac­tices to try to min­i­mize insect and dis­ease
dam­age. The idea is to man­age the soil and cul­ti­vate the crops in ways that will allow
the land to con­tinue to be pro­duc­tive now and into the future. I actu­ally like this label the
best. It’s about the mind blow­ing inter­ac­tion of so many parts (soils, insects and ani­mals,
water, sun) com­ing together and under­tak­ing a amaz­ing cycle of growth, death,
decom­po­si­tion and regrowth and, we as par­tic­i­pants, help per­pet­u­ate that cycle into the
future.

All three of us (Gal­lagher, Dave and myself) have been com­mit­ted to main­tain­ing
the health­i­est envi­ron­ment for our prod­ucts, whether they be plant or ani­mal. We want to
eat respon­si­bly grown food, food that is high in nutri­ents and free of dam­ag­ing
chem­i­cals. Black Brook Farm Grow­ers may not have the organic stamp of approval from
big busi­ness, but we are bring­ing to mar­ket prod­ucts that are as good or bet­ter for our
cus­tomers than what they buy from most other cur­rently avail­able food sources.

Now, in the full belly of August, we change much of our focus from plant­ing to
har­vest­ing and stor­ing. Growth has peaked and days shorten. We will har­vest the food
from our plants and ani­mals and return to the earth that which we don’t use., help­ing to
replen­ish what we have taken.

And, if time allows (I am on vaca­tion today), I will write again about our adven­ture
into farm­ing on a small scale bio­di­verse farm in New England

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