What are your farming practices? As a farmer, I receive this question in varying forms often from customers who visit the Saratoga Farmers’ Market. So do many of the other agricultural vendors who bring fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, cheeses, spirits, and other locally produced items to market.
I appreciate the question. It creates an opportunity to chat and build a relationship through a sharing of farming philosophy. But because farming is a personal endeavor, how the question gets answered varies.
I decided last Saturday to ask a few of my farmer friends at the market to share their philosophies and practices. Here’s what I learned:
From Lee Hennessy, owner of Moxie Ridge Farm, which brings goat milk, yogurt, and cheeses to market as well as pork: “The philosophy behind my farm … is based in terroir (a French term that depicts a sense of place in food and wine).”
For Hennessy, terroir is achieved through what his goats and other animals eat: “Everything is non-GMO and comes from within 10 miles of my farm. That sense of place in milk and in meat is what makes it unique.”
From Andy Burger, of Burger Farm, a multi-generation family farm that brings seedlings, potted plants, and vegetables to market: “We are no-spray, non-certified organic. We try and keep as close to naturally grown as we can.”
Burger’s use of the terms no-spray, organic, and naturally grown offers a means to differentiate many practices. “No spray” means no chemical insecticides, herbicides, or fungicides are used to protect crops from pests. “Organic” allows for certain spraying and fertilizer use, while “naturally grown” further limits these uses to materials that are fully natural.
“Non-certified” highlights the fact farms use organic and naturally grown methods but have not sought formal recognition. Such is the case twith my farm. We do not use sprays and minimize organic fertilizer use by incorporating animal manure into our soil.
Organic certification comes from the USDA. It is expensive and time-consuming, but it ensures crops are grown in the cleanest possible environment, as Echo Creek Farm owner Jennifer Palulis has explained.
And the difference between certified organic and certified naturally grown? “The single biggest difference is the certifier,” says Jason Heitman of Green Jeans Market Farm, which receives its certified naturally grown recognition from another farmer. “I don’t use the USDA; I use a colleague.”
Saratoga Farmers’ Market runs at Wilton Mall 3-6 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays. Follow on Facebook and Instagram. Subscribe to the newsletter www.saratogafarmersmarket.org/weekly-newsletter.