Local, Wellesley Island Grown, Certified Organic

 

 

Compost tumbler and compost.  Click to enlarge.

A compost tumbler is a convenient, though expensive, way to make compost.  Click the photo to enlarge.

What Is Organic?


Organic is a system of growing plants and animals in cooperation with nature, instead of trying to overpower her.  Organic is about ecosystems and remembering that life is a circle that must remain unbroken.  In organic farming we feed the soil and the soil feeds the plants. Healthy soil equals healthy plants equals healthy food.

In the old days, if you used natural fertilizers and didn't use chemicals, you were organic.  In recent years the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) has taken to regulating the use of the word "organic."  To call ones' produce or animal products organic, farmers and processors must follow the National Organic Standards (NOS) of the National Organic Program.  Farmers must be certified by an approved certifying agency, keep extensive records, pay annual certification fees, and be inspected annually, in addition to spot inspections.

Cross Island Farms became Certified Organic by NOFA-NY Certified Organic LLC in August of 2006 and continues our certification through NOFA-NY.  The initial application took three days to complete.  The renewal only took one day!  Like Kermit the Frog says, "It ain't easy being green!"

COMPOST- Compost is one key ingredient in organic farming.  Compost is basically any rotting and/or rotted organic matter: animal manure and bedding, leaves, grass clippings, hay or straw, coffee grounds, kitchen scraps, rotted seaweed, wood chips, the list goes on and on.

Good compost is made from a mixture of nitrogen-rich material (green) and carbon-rich material (brown.)  The optimum ratio of carbon to nitrogen (the C-N) ratio is between 25:1 and 40:1.  If you want to make hot, fast compost, you need to get the ratio right.  A good rule of thumb is three parts green to one part brown.  If you have too much carbon, the compost pile won't heat up.  If you have too much nitrogen, you will smell ammonia.

But don't worry, any organic matter piled up will eventually turn into compost; the question is, how fast.  The other important factors are moisture and air.  You want the material in the pile to feel like a wet sponge that has been well squeezed-out, damp but not dripping when you squeeze it.  Air is important because we want to encourage aerobic bacteria, the kind that breathe oxygen.  That is why compost piles get turned.

MULCH- Besides compost, organic mulches are probably the other key ingredient in most organic gardening and farming.  Mulches hold in water, keep down weed, moderate the soil temperature, and allow the soil to breathe.  Organic mulches also enrich the soil as they decay, building up the complex soil ecosystem which is essential to healthy soil, healthy plants, and healthy animals, including humans.  Inorganic mulches, like plastic, do not break down to feed the soil life

Common organic mulches include leaves, grass clippings, straw, hay, wood chips, seaweed, and even recycled newspapers, as long as they do not contain glossy paper or colored inks.  Some care in necessary when choosing and using mulches.  For example, heat loving plants like tomatoes, peppers, and vine crops should not be mulched before the soil warms up.  Grass clippings should be dried before they are put on the garden, to prevent heating.  Hay may contain weed seeds, depending on its age and condition.  But with proper use, organic mulches do wonderful things for the soil and all that depends upon it for life.  Organic mulches are a key part of our organic garden and farm plans.

 

 

 

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How To Be Organic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compost pile in wire fence hoop.  Click to enlarge.

A hoop of welded-wire fence makes an inexpensive, but neat compost pile.  This hoop is four feet tall by four feet in diameter.  Click the picture to enlarge it.