Dale's Blog

My wonderful wife came to me and said i should start blogging. At first i thought what a compliment. I can share knowledge and have a great time writing stuff........Nope, it turns out that i need a place to release, shout out and simply tell the truth about farming. So here it is, Dale's Blog, a platform where I shout out and you respond, round one...ding..ding

Sunday, 26 May 2019 11:10

Organic Certification! What to believe!

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When I started farming I realised a certification of sorts would be needed to convince the consumer that my product was organic. I set about researching certification organisations and came up with one that would serve my purpose. I fill out page after page and finally submit the document for a quote. Couple of days go past and then bang....R18 000 estimate for 1 acre. That would cost me R5 for every square meter I was farming.

Certification Costs more than Gold

An ounce of Gold at the time was cheaper. Look it up, it's true. I'm in the wrong business. I had to really give this thought as to how this certificate would boost my business if any. I continued farming and went the route of inviting consumers and retailers to our farm to inspect and give us the yay or nay. I was stunned at how many people loved the fact that they could come to our farm and have a look and decide for themselves and learn something. As our first season went past we were approached by retailers to get certified as they could not carry our message across to the consumer and needed in my opinion a piece of paper to tell the consumer that we are stamped organic.....

Let's Face it, the world needs certificates to reassure ourselves.

A birth certificate to confirm we are alive, a education certificate to confirm we are clever and oh well a organic certificate to confirm we are.......organic. Do we as a consumer not need a certificate that says - toxic certified, grown with poison. Apparently not, we happy to wonder off to the super markets and buy all the toxic food that has no need for certificates.

Colleen and I decide to move forward and sign up for the PGS Ifoam certification as the world wants a piece of paper that says we are good farmers. We contact Bryanston Organic Market to sign up as this was the only local Gauteng PGS available. They promptly send us the documents and fees to pay. I open the fees document with shaking hands expecting a huge number as the other quotes. I add up the annual fee and farm visit fee which totals R300.

I am speechless, how can fees be so out of whack? 

I'm shocked. That's for free, there must surely be something wrong with this system called PGS Ifoam. We pay and book our farm visit. I have my farm all ready and the PGS Ifoam members start arriving for our audit. Retailers, Consumers and Farmers attend. Introductions are made and we set about the task at hand. Audrey conducted the visit and walked around the farm asking questions, making notes, ticking off blocks and generally guiding the visit.

Farmers, retailers and consumers asked questions and I replied. Then something strange happened during the visit, I started receiving suggestions and was also asked advise on some matters. My view was that these people were here to really interrogate me........this was'nt the case.

A Community has taken time to come visit and help me achieve a Certificate

I had this whole PGS Ifoam system completely wrong. Caring people had come out to my farm at their cost to help me verify to consumers that I am organic. This was my findings during the visit. We were certified that day and you know what, that certificate is not what was important. It was a community coming together to share, help, and be honest. I only truely realised this, this past Wednesday when our Local SOFA PGS  went to Farming with the Family farm visit.

Some weeks ago Colleen and I set up our own PGS Ifoam called SOFA (Southern Organic Farmers Association) and I was voted in Chairmen?!@#$% More about this in future blogs. We set off on Wednesday morning and we arrive at Farming with the Family. 

Inez greets us with a friendly smile but it dawns on me that this is how I looked when I had our farm visit. Fiona follows soon after Inez and greets us and she too is on edge. The rest of the SOFA members arrive and we have a cup of coffee and a chat. Time for Inez and Fiona to walk us around their farm. We start off with a quick talk by me and off we go.

This is where farm life really shines. This farmer is discussing something with Fiona, that consumer is asking Inez questions, I'm digging in the soil and having a good look for organic matter. And so it goes for over an hour. We all start sharing and asking each other for help such as, why are my broccoli's not growing and so on....each person has help or advice without hesitation.

At the end SOFA members hand in a checklist and give approval or non-approval. Inez and Fiona serve us delicious treats made on the farm with ingredient from the land. Time passes and I can see Inez is about to throttle me for the outcome. So funny, had to keep them stressed just a little longer........they pass with flying colours. They now have a certificate that they can be proud of.

No other certification system in the world brings together a community that certifies your food. In my opinion this is how all our food should be certified, by the community.Show me a corporate farmer or retailer that will open gates for the community to come audit them..........I dont think they will because they hide behind money and lies. Money buys them a lie of a certificate.

Support Your Local PGS System...Support SOFA
Read 109 times Last modified on Sunday, 26 May 2019 13:03
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