An unexpected decision

“Chocolate” sunflowers that Rusty grew this year

What do we typically do on the farm this time of year? I imagine the list is fairly predictable: lots of harvest and irrigation, and even a little planting (for fall and winter). This is also the time of year when we help the kids enter items from their garden (along with artwork) to the Yamhill County Fair (Rusty entered one of his “Chocolate” sunflowers!).

What do we typically not do on the farm this time of year? Paperwork. I continue to do the usual maintenance things — mailing checks to the bank, making invoices for restaurants, and paying bills — but the bulk of the big farm paperwork happens over the quiet winter. That’s when we sit down to file our taxes, update next year’s CSA information, and do our organic certification paperwork.

Which is why a recent situation left us wondering exactly how to respond. We had filled out our certification paperwork as usual this winter and were awaiting our inspection earlier this summer when we heard some very unexpected news: Stellar, our certifying agency, was going out of business. The short story is that they were being shut down by the USDA, but this occurrence has no bearing on the rigor of each individual farm (such as ours). I’m still not entirely sure about all the details, but the consequence was that we were given until the end of September to decide on a new certifying agency and begin the process of filling out their forms and switching over.

We’re still hemming and hawing over how to approach this situation given the time of year. We’ve been hemming and hawing for weeks — which agency? When will we fit in the paperwork amidst the very full timeline of August?

At this point, we don’t sell into any processing or retail markets that require certification of us. It’s something we’ve chosen to do because we enjoy the process and love being able to freely and legally use the most accurate word to describe what we grow. When we started our farm back in 2006, the farmer we trained with told us that the farming is the hard part. He said: “Don’t do all that work and then not be able to use the right word!” That stuck with us, and we’ve always enjoyed the process.

We have had a pause in our certification status for a period in our farm’s history because of a practical considerations, and we appreciated that our customers understand that the certification itself is the “icing on the cake” rather than the substance of how we farm. Either way, our farming methods are consistent with our personal values: organic-compliant sources of fertility (mostly from cover crops at this point), no pesticides at all (organic approved or otherwise), weed control through mechanical means (hoes and hands!).

Regardless of what we decide, those practices will stay the same, and we will be certified for sure next year. We’re just still trying to figure out if it might make most sense at this moment in the season to just simply pause this official process until we can easily make more time in the office again. Still figuring that out. We’ll keep you updated. If you have thoughts, let us know!

But, for sure, we’ll be going to the fair later this week (as always) to check on the status of the kids’ entries and enjoy seeing what the rest of the community has contributed! Without a doubt, visiting the fair is part of August on the farm.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Plums
  • Tomatoes
  • Green peppers
  • Salad mix
  • Basil
  • Kale
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
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