We spent a very fun couple of days at the Common Ground Fair this year. We always have fun, eat lots of food, and find some new source of inspiration to carry us through the winter months. We went to Kendra Michaud’s wood-fired bread baking workshop and picked up a few more pointers for our new oven. Listened to Mark Guzzi’s keynote, as well as his garlic lecture. Checked in with Cheryl Wixson about root-cellaring.
Ten years ago, we used to be able to sell our cheese in the farmers’ market area of the fair. We sold a lot of cheese, had a lot of fun, and many new people discovered us that way. But that was back in the day when you didn’t need to be certified organic in order to sell there. In 2000, the fair organizers began requiring anyone selling any kind of food to be certified. For years afterward, there was no cheese, local chicken or several other foods, stilll grown locally and sustainably, but not certified organic. It pissed me off then and it still pisses me off, that it’s OK to truck in certified organic food from anywhere in the world (coffee is at the fair this year!!!) but our farm, a mere 25 miles from the fairground, is excluded because we are not certified.
This leads to MUCH customer confusion! They don’t understand why I am not at the fair. They don’t understand why we’re not organic –many people assume that we are since we sell at a farmers’ market. Not so!
Here are our reasons for not being certified organic, although we manage our farm organically:
We don’t have the land base to establish rotational pasture. We only have 6 acres, enough for goats, but not for pasture. Goats don’t really graze so much as browse anyway, and they are very happy browsing in our second-growth woods.
We buy our hay locally, from a farm six miles away. This makes much more sense to me than trucking in organic hay from Canada or wherever. Our hay farmer doesn’t use pesticides, he simply isn’t certified, either. We haven’t got storage for a lot of hay, so he stores it for us. Works well that way.
We can’t afford organic grain. We don’t feel what is available is dependable or of high quality.
We don’t use antibiotics, but reserve the right to do so in order to save the life of one of our animals. Wouldn’t you?
We never use artificial hormones. Why on earth would we? Our goats are happy, and give us all the milk we need.
I’m not sure I really want to sell cheese at the fair, truth be told. I have much more fun just going to the fair, and not working. But I am tired of explaining it to people, and tired of having to go incognito, because if customers see me there, they think the cheese is not far behind.