For roughly ten years, I studdied and followed the dictates of
the organic movement. I did everything I was supposed to do
and more. Moved and spread tons of granite dust and rock
phosphate. Shoveled manure, made compost, released green lace-
wings for aphids, injected parasitic nematodes for borers,
shook trees for plum curculio, mulched trees, pulled bermuda-
grass by hand, and much, much more,
all the while holding down other jobs to bring
in the money to pay for the farm. I kept the faith, worked my
butt off, but I was not rewarded with a sellable crop. My
soil was getting wonderful and fluffy, my trees were healthy,
but nothing I did seemed to make a dent in the damage done by
the plum curculio. I don't think I could have worked any harder
or studied more.
Finally, I decided to go to the University and really study up
on what the conventional ag researchers knew about the curculio.
I won't give you all the grisly details, but during this period
the Rodale Institute was FINALLY putting to the test (how was
I to know they hadn't done this before?) their own recommendations
for curculio control. Their findings? They dubbed the plum
curculio the "Achilles heel of organic apple growers."
I learned that I could control the curculio with two well-timed,
early-season sprays of Imidan. I continued to do everything
else organically at this point (later I began using spot sprays
of Round-up to control bermudagrass), but, of course, my apples
could no longer be called organic. BUT now I had a sellable crop!!!
You would not believe some of the things said about me among
the organic crowd. Hell, I believed I had accomplished something:
rather than the 12-24 applications of multiple pesticides that
the conventional growers use around here, I was using two--and
still getting a sellable (but cosmetically imperfect) crop. I've
been called a turn-coat, been accused of selling out, had a lady
scream at me about my "poisoned apples," etc. etc. And, of course,
there were the more subtle "greener than thou" insults thrown
in my direction.
I have tried to take it in stride. I work hard at the farmers
market to educate my clientele about why my apples are so ugly
(I accept a lot of cosmetic damage since I don't spray after the
two early season ones) and why, ecologically speaking, my apples
are okay to buy. It's hard to do this when they can go down to
the health food store and buy cosmetically perfect organic apples
from Washington or California.
I've since learned that many of the organic apple growers,
ESPECIALLY those in the East, spray much, much more than I do,
and with a mix of pesticides that while organic are hardly
Okay, and now comes along the Federal certification guidelines.
I actually fear that my livelihood as an "ecological,"
"sustainable," or whatever you want to call it (I am definitely
not conventional) is threatened by these guidelines. Why?
Because the FEDERAL certification will carry a weight that the
private labels didn't, and the average consumer will, I fear,
assume that the federally certified stuff is perfectly groovy
and ecological and safe, while anything not certified will
be more-or-less considered suspicious.
Being at one time within the organic movement and now being
outside it has, I think, given me a perspective few have. And
mostly what I've been trying to say in my postings to SANET is
not that organic is "wrong," but rather that it is not THE
one and only answer. But, if my postings have occasionally
taken on a more strident and abrasive tone it is because I now
actually feel threatened by the Federal organic certification
So now you have my story and my "real" motivation.