Maple Spring Gardens
Cedar Grove, NC
I first began growing vegetables by “organic” methods in 1972. An old farm house full of young people, a barn stocked with well rotted cow manure, The Basic Book of Organic Gardening, and a lot of beginner’s luck combined to yield a beautiful garden, and I found a passion and a career. Over the next few years, I read everything I could get my hands on that related to agriculture, and during a period of years when I worked on a local dairy farm, I became convinced there was a better way to farm than was being advocated and practiced in the 1970’s (and today as well). I became solidly committed to farming, and demonstrating the viability of farming practices, that improve, rather than deplete the soil; that encourage a diverse ecosystem on the farm which results in a system of checks and balances among insect species; and yields safe, nutritious foods while not unnecessarily exposing farm workers, consumers or the environment to toxic chemicals.
From 1981 thru 2005, our produce has been distributed in the Chapel Hill and Durham area, thru local stores and farmers markets, labeled “organically grown.” For over 10 years, our farm was “Certified Organic” by outside agencies. Since October 2002, organic certification, and use of the term “organic” have been regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The process of certification requires annual renewal and is time consuming and expensive. The paper work required is extensive. When we first became certified, about half of our produce was being sold to Wellspring Grocery (now Whole Foods Market) and certification was required in order for it to be labeled organic. Since then our marketing has changed, and now we sell nearly everything we grow thru farmers markets and our CSA – that is - directly to the person who will eat it. In the summer of 2005 we decided not to renew our certification. We decided that the time and expense involved was no longer worth it, that our personal connection with those for whom we grow food is more important than the USDA seal of approval. It was a difficult choice, as I have had a reputation in this area as an “organic” grower for over 30 years, and now, without certification, I cannot legally go the market and hang up a sign that says “organic produce,” or make such a claim on our website. Uncertified use of the term is now punishable by a $10,000 fine.
Nor can I honestly say our produce is “grown without pesticides.” It is a common misconception that organic farmers do not use pesticides. In fact, there are many pest control products that are approved for organic production. We rarely, but occasionally, use some of them. One such product is a biodegradable soap that effectively smothers certain insects that breath thru their skins. Another is a formulation of bacillus thuringiensis, commonly referred to as Bt, which is a bacteria that paralyzes the stomachs of green caterpillars. It is not a chemical at all, totally safe to use, and very effective. These are some examples of “pesticides” that are safe and effective alternatives to the powerful chemicals that are pervasive in conventional agriculture.
Some information on pesticide use:
There has to be a better way to produce our food!
While we can no longer use the “O” word in marketing our products, we are as committed as ever to growing good, safe food in a manner that will continue to improve our land and preserve its agricultural value for future generations. We will continue to farm with respect for the safety of our workers, our customers, and ourselves. We will do our best to protect the environment we all depend on. We welcome dialogue about our farming practices.
-- Ken Dawson
Manager, Maple Spring Gardens, LLC
||According to the EPA, over half the drinking water supply in the US is contaminated with pesticides.
||Since 1945, US crop losses to insects have doubled while pesticide use has increased 10 fold.
||There are still billions of pounds of pesticides produced in this country that are illegal to use here, but are exported for agricultural use in other countries.
||Over half the fruits and vegetables consumed in the US are now imported and less than 1% is tested for pesticide residue.