|It was a monumental week on the farm, as we officially became the First and Only Organic Pasture-Raised Chicken Farm in the state of Georgia, and one of only a handful in the whole country! Since the beginning, we have taken our production practices far beyond what is required for Organic Certification, by pasture-raising our chickens in addition to following organic guidelines for feed and land management. So why did we choose Organic Certification instead of simply using best practices without taking on the added expense and paperwork that comes with certification?|
|Here are some answers to that question from Grateful Pastures Founder Shaun Terry: |
1. From the beginning of my vision for the farm I always wanted to be Certified Organic. Its about doing things the right way, being committed to a cause and being humble enough to let a 3rd party examine every decision that you make. As we all know, the USDA Organic program is not perfect. It allows chicken farms to be certified that don’t raise their chickens outside on pasture like we do. But it also requires stringent attention to detail in sourcing inputs such as feed, grit, vitamins, probiotics, bedding, etc. There are a lot of moving parts on an integrated livestock and vegetable farm like Grateful Pastures. Having another set of trained eyes on all of the components of the farm allows us to be certain that we are achieving superior quality in the end products that consumers take home to feed to their families.
2. In the eyes of policymakers, both at the State and National levels, there are really only two types of farms, conventional and Certified Organic. I want my farm to be tallied with the good guys in this fight. Legislators work to protect the interests of their constituents, so I want them to see that more of their constituent farms are committed to environmental care and consumer protection from dangerous chemicals. I think that this is an important point that many sustainably minded farmers miss. How will agricultural policy in Georgia be different when 5% or 25% of GA farms are Organic rather than 0.3%?
3. I believe in using Organic feed. By buying Organic feed I’m supporting environmental improvement on farms all over the country. I’m also guaranteeing that no pesticide residues are consumed by the chickens and end up in the meat. However, Organic feed prices are twice as high as the next best option (Non-GMO feed, which is still sprayed with dangerous pesticides). Since I’m spending at least twice as much on feed as my counterparts, I need to be able to convey that difference to my customers concisely. The USDA Organic label does that. Organic means No GMOs, No Synthetic Pesticides, No Antibiotics, No Hormones, No Arsenic (a commonly used feed additive), No plastic fillers in the feed, No Nonsense. And best of all the National Organic Program has teeth, meaning that if a Certified Organic farmer lies about their production practices they can face criminal charges. A small farm only signs up for that kind of scrutiny if they are 100% committed to producing clean food.