Great news everybody, I'm bona fide now! While I've always farmed with organic practices, the time had come to get a 3rd party certification since I am selling to a wider and wider audience. I decided to join the Certified Naturally Grown program because it's a great alternative for small-scale producers who can't afford the expenses and extensive paperwork of the USDA program. I encourage you to check out their website and learn about it - https://www.cngfarming.org/faqs
The program requirements are just as vigorous as the national organic program, the largest difference is cost, and inspection structure. CNG is a peer-to-peer organization- fellow farmers do the inspecting, and we all do our part by providing inspections to yet more farmers. This keeps costs down significantly and allows small scale producers to provide their customers with peace of mind in knowing they are supporting sustainable farming practices.
In addition, Certified Naturally Grown is also great for transparency. My declaration that I signed, committing to CNG practices, is scanned and posted online. The inspection form that my farmer peers filled out is there too. I want my practices to be out in the open and to have a dialog with people about what I do to keep my farm going in the long run. It's not just simply switching fertilizer brands but really a process of thinking how to do better every year.
With that in mind, I want to share with you some long term goals of mine for the farm. First, I am slowly working toward a no-till system. Tilling has its uses but if it can be eliminated, you can build up such bioactivity in the soil that the structure improves itself over time. To do this, I am looking at using silage tarps to do a "burndown" of weeds on top (replacing the plow, and some of the tilling), and then planting direct into that soil and covering with a thick layer of straw. This building up of organic matter will also reduce my fertilizer needs.
Secondly, I am working to source my fertilizer as close as possible. Currently I get a product from Central New York (through distributors), which though good, could be better. I plan on working with local livestock producers to amend ground with more manure, reducing my total input of trucked-in materials from further off. Decisions about fertilizer are always hard, because we are directly confronted with what it takes to keep agricultural soil productive. Some people are uncomfortable with animal byproducts like blood meal and bone meal. I personally am bothered in some strange sense by adding things like soy meal (a perfectly edible crop!) that would be a "vegan" alternative but would bother me as a wasteful use of food. This will be an ongoing conversation each year as I balance my goals to support ideals, with actual product availability.
All of these things are ongoing goals that will take time and thought. Going no-till or no-plow requires better planning on my part, and that's a challenge to do while also keeping the lights running. But I'm on it!