Saturday, September 27, 2014

Farm Bulletin: Inspection and Verification

The work that goes into a farm isn't just plowing, planting, watering and processing, especially for organic farms. Every year there are two certifications at Ayers Creek Farm, one by the government, required for them to use the term "certified organic" on their products, and the other by their customers, a voluntary requirement they've been glad to undergo every year since they began farming. This year's ramble is scheduled for Oct. 12.

On the 18th of April our organic certifier visited the Ayers Creek for our annual inspection. Arriving at 9:30, he inspected our farm and our records without pause, finishing his closing interview at 2:15. Even though we have been through the process 15 times since 1999, it remains an intense experience.

Linda Colwell at the farm's wood oven.

The application, submitted in March, articulated our organic farm management plan. After it was reviewed, an inspection was scheduled. The week before inspection, we make sure all of the records, seed packages, certifications and invoices are pulled together. All of the buildings, machines and fields must be open to inspection.

The inspection fee is paid on the clock, so we try to make it as efficient as possible. No chit chat or lost keys, and niceties kept to the barest minimum. It is a serious matter because a cavalier decision or mistaken use of a substance will mean loss of certification of the crop or even the land for three years. By the time 2:15 rolled around, we were hungry and tired with a sense of evisceration. To our daughter, who goes through the process at their Italy Hill Produce, we can say confidently that it never gets easier or smoother. (We never talked to you about Santa either, did we?)

Breads from the wood oven.

Passing the review, inspection and audit allows us to carry the term "certified organic" on our labels and signs. Our second very important review and inspection comes when you all visit the farm on the ramble. We take it as seriously, and fret over details the week before. We are cognizant of the fact that if you are not satisfied with the way we farm, we could lose you as a customer. However, this inspection is much more comfortable because we can digress from the topic at hand and digest Linda Colwell's excellent food.

This year's ramble will take place on the 12th of October, from 3:00 to 6:00 pm. Bring friends and family, along with sturdy shoes and a bee sting kit if you are allergic. As a reminder, in our irrational New England Blue Law rectitude, we have kept the ramble strictly noncommercial. We won't be selling anything. Please don't try to lead us astray, just enjoy the stay.

Black and white photos by Anthony Boutard. Click on them to get enlarged versions—they're worth it!

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