Farm Journal 10/3/21

Click here to place your order for this week (please give us 24 hours lead time before your desired pick up date/time).

Eggs are now listed as one dozen-per-order. Shortening days = less eggs

You can now find us at:

Sundays – Squirrel Hill Farmers Market – 9am – 1 pm

Mondays – East Liberty 3 – 7 pm

Wednesdays – Here at The Farm – 11 – 7

Fridays – Northside Farmers Market – 3 – 7 pm

Saturdays – Mt. Lebanon, Uptown – 9am – 12pm (Oct 30 will be our last)

Last CSA is the Week of Oct 20th – At the request of our accountant – we won’t accept 2022 CSA share payments until the beginning of January.

Next week, I’ll let you know the status of our turkeys.

Field Notes – by Jen

We just survived another year of scrutiny from our Organic Farm Inspector!

To clarify some terminology, our farm is Certified Organic through Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO) who is a certifying agency for the National Organic Program (NOP) under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). PCO hires staff and Independent Contractors to do the on-site inspections of their client’s farms, production facilities, and processors. Each inspector is trained to for specific categories. Our farm is only certified for Crops, as a result, our inspector from PCO comes here only to look at our crop production system. She looked over our paperwork, walked the fields, and scrutinized my “inputs” collection (fertilizers, seeds, etc). She makes sure that my info on our Organic Systems Plan lines up with reality of what’s out in the fields, what my planting and harvest sheets reflect, and if my invoices for inputs purchased reflect on what we’re growing and harvesting. Like most farmers, there’s always room for improvement…. and for me, that’s in the record keeping department. Acknowledging that we’re only human and most farms have way too much going on to keep excellent records… she gave me tips on what might help for keeping records for next year’s inspection. But I’m still going to get “docked” for it. I know all too well her frustration of trying to paint a picture of of a whole farm’s production year, just to suss out if they are an honest or shady operation…. for I too am an organic farm inspector and I’d chastise myself for incomplete records!

I’ve been an organic crops inspector since 2018 and think of it as my “tail-end-of-the-season income generation”.

Back in 2009 I took a Crops Inspector training course, had to do three apprentice/shadow inspections with a Mentor Inspector (which was difficult to find a Mentor at that time), then we had Evelyn in 2011 and Olivia in 2016 ….. Fast forward to 2019 when I finally emerged from the time constraints of parenting toddlers and running a farm and was able to focus on the task of finding a Mentor. Since then, I’ve manage about 15 inspections a year and really enjoy my time off the farm! What a fun job to drive around the countryside, getting personal tours of organic farms, asking questions about how they grow and harvest their crops, why they do what they do, and how they overcome or move on from hardships. When the farmers feel chatty, I learn about all the different ways they make money on their farm, the history of the area, what they used to do and where they think they are going…. I know enough about crop production to speak their language and I think that gives me “street creds” in the farming scene. I’m not just a pencil pusher from the city…making sure they are meeting government standards… we get to talk shop and it’s lots of fun!

I’m going to take a livestock inspections training course over the winter. I’ll have to understand hay harvests, feed ratios, live weight, hanging weight, dry matter, cow to pasture ratios…. All of which we’ve dabbled with in our pastured pig operation and a little bit with the two milk cows we had awhile back…. but that’s not the same as a 50 head dairy farm…. and it’s different when I’m reporting to an agency which can be scrutinized by the USDA.

The inspector that was here last week had done around 2000 inspections in her career and is active in the policy and advocacy for organic inspectors. We are the eyes and ears for the certification agencies and we are the ones with our feet in the fields and noses in the barns…. In order for the National Organic Program to have integrity, it’s up to the inspectors to be thorough, hold everyone to a baseline standard, and do a good job.

I believe in the USDA National Organic Program. It never hurts to have a standard with which people can meet in order to make a claim about their product. They can always go above and beyond these standards, but when there’s a third party coming in to verify their integrity, and a seal of approval to support it…. it’s worth it.

Some farmers may say that it’s “too much paperwork” or “too expensive” and I simply can’t agree (fully acknowledging that I’m not very good about keeping up the paperwork). It’s paperwork that helps a farmer plan for and keep records of their business, which they should really be doing anyway…. And Pennsylvania has an Organic Cost Share program which covers almost half of the cost of certification.

Truly, I’m not one for too much government oversight for farmers, but I’ve been to plenty of farmer’s markets and hear the term “organic” thrown out there willy-nilly and it drives me crazy. When there’s a USDA Organic symbol… at least I know someone’s out there verifying things!

The Menu

A few tomatoes, a scant amount of cherry tomatoes, tomatillos, husk cherries, peppers, hot peppers, dill and/or parsley, greens (mizuna or turnip greens), kale, more carrots and apples!!

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