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Walking away from the Organic Certification but not from organic

posted Jan 2, 2019, 3:12 PM by Dan and Caroline Swansey   [ updated Jan 2, 2019, 3:32 PM ]
It has been 2 years since the last blog post, wow, and actually I am not surprised. When life gets really busy blogging is just not in the list of priorities. But today I do have something I want to share to those who are interested. 
Our small family, Dan, our 2 sons, Isaiah and Cyrus, and myself have been going through the motions of life and farming certainly is not the easy part of it, though it does seem to hold us together at times. As time goes on the challenges change and every hurdle seems impassable until we just take a deep breath and somehow make it to the other side. 
As our boys get older their needs change. We are lucky enough to live in a place were there is an alternative school which offers a hybrid system of half homeschooling and half public school and our eldest son is now in 1st grade while our youngest will be entering kindergarten next year. I love being part of my kids education and would not change it although again it takes time and energy to homeschool and drive kids to school and activities.
For those of you who do not know, one of the reasons I stopped organizing workshops at the farm was because I started teaching as an adjunct professor at Clark College in Vancouver. Each quarter I teach 1 or 2 classes (Environmental Biology and Environmental Health). Again time and energy is poured out to going to Vancouver twice a week to share my understanding of all the connections we need to make with our environment to live this life. It is good work and it brings financial stability which I am so grateful for. 
Dan is the keeper of the farm, he is here keeping the farm running day in day out while I fill in where and when I can.
Every free moment we have, or I should say every free moment we make, we love getting together with friends and hiking on the beautiful trails around this amazing place of the Northwest.
Why am I telling you all of this when the title suggests the post is about our certification? Well, I needed to set the scene that our time as farmers is quite precious and we make farming organically and ecologically a priority, we make our kids growing up around a healthy environment a priority, we make our financial stability and honest work a priority, and we make spending time in nature as much as we possibly can a priority, because we are here to learn and honor the laws of nature. Somehow, the certification process this year has left us defeated. 
We have been working with the wsda certification agency for 6 years now and each year it seems they are shifting their rules towards more and more detailed record keeping and less and less actually looking at the field. For the first several years, we would walk with the inspector in our fields for hours and he would carefully take notes and recognize all of the crops and weeds, beneficial insects and pest, everything was noted in the field and then there was some looking into our storage shed to look at our amendments. We also showed our seed packages, which I carefully stored, and then there were a few questions on income and record keeping. Last year the balance had shifted a different inspector spent over 3 hours asking me for all kinds of records on the computer and then barely spend 20 minutes outside looking at our fields and crops. Apparently we are now required to keep track of every crop that comes off of our field, pound for pound, and who or where it is getting sold. Well, we have never done this and it was a deal breaker for us. Because a small farm like us where we literally run around harvesting and then run inside to feed and care for kids and then run back out to do more work in the field, just does not have time to pick up the clipboard and make records of all of the harvesting we do, let alone start giving receipts to our CSA members who serve themselves of their share of produce weekly. Every hour I spent writing numbers down on a clipboard is an hour that I think I can spend much more wisely...anyway that was the drop that overflowed that bucket of our farm.
Dan and I are pretty extremely dedicated to never ever using any types of pesticides on our land, even organically approved ones are not used around here. We know there is a way to work with Nature if we are willing to give it some work and learn how ecology works. We know synthetic fertilizers leach into our waterways much faster than from organic sources and that making them is fossil fuel intensive. We believe it is ethically wrong to tamper with the genetic code of life the way GMO's are made. And we want our kids to grow up learning that we have to care for Nature to receive from it. 
So, friends, we are not changing our ways even though we will no longer be "certified". For those of you who do not know us, we invite you to come meet us and take a walk around our farm and ask us personally the important questions that you need to know if you will be eating food produced on this beautiful farm our family loves and cares for. Our farm store hours on Saturdays from 10am to 2pm late ish March through October are always good to come see us. 
And perhaps, not spending the time keeping records and recertifying every year (because trust me I already did keep plenty of records) will lead to more Blog posts in the future, who knows.