Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fake Farmers

I wish I could let it go but I cannot. Once again I saw a farmer advertising organic meat when I know for a fact it is not. This is frustrating on many levels, with honesty and ethics being at the top.

With the exception of cruel practices, I do believe confinement farming to be cruel, I do not give a donkeys butt how you raise your animals. You chose to feed GMO feed? That's your choice. You choose to feed dumpster leftovers instead of grain and hay? Again, your choice. You collect a load of corn dumped on the road from a conventional farmer? You guessed it: your choice.

But, what irks me, what really angers me, WHAT SETS MY HAIR ON FIRE..*.is when that same farmer, the one  who is feeding all sorts of non-organic feed to their animals, labels his meat or produce or milk or lip balm or chicken feet or whatever as "organic."

In doing so  Mr/Ms. Farmer you are saying so much more.

You are saying that your word is untrustworthy.  If you can call your product organic when it is not what else are fibbing about? The housing your animal has ? The amount of time on pasture? I wonder if your are even aware that the NOP  (National Organic Program) has a minimum number of days cattle must be on pasture.?  The answer is 120 days.

You are saying you believe in price gauging.  Why else would you charge organic prices when you haven't bothered to pay the price yourself as in organic feed, organic pastures, organic processing, organic certification.?

You are saying you believe in lying to customers. Why else would you label your product something it is not? How would you feel if you bought a bag of grain labeled ground corn and discovered it was ground glass? Or purchased a bottle of 100% Fruit Juice for your child and discovered it had less than 10% real Fruit Juice? Or even worse, grabbed a box of Good 'N Plenty fully expecting it to be full of teeth rotting sugar and instead it was now being made with Saccharine?  When you knowingly misrepresent what you grow on your farm...

You are saying you believe your own product is not good enough, not tasty enough, not healthy enough. Why else would you call it something it isn't?  Being certified organic is a choice. If you choose not to pursue this shouldn't you be proud of your choice? Proud enough to honestly label your products using phrases such as "Antibiotic Free" or "Hormone Free."?

You are saying that the relationship you have with your customers need not be based on trust or truth. I must wonder then... what is it based on?

You are saying that our work here on South Pork Ranch is easy, as easy as writing the word "organic" on our labels. Never mind the  hours and hours of hard work in learning the organic regulations, following the organic regulations, keeping records on how we keep the regulations, PAYING over $1000 a year just for the organic inspection let  alone paying for the certified organic feed, packaging and labels (did you know we have to pay 12 cents per meat package just for the USDA Organic Symbol?)

You might also want to take note: some of the fees we pay for being certified are used to pay the salaries of state inspectors who investigate folks who label; their products "organic" when they have not been certified as such. In fact, it is illegal to mislabel your products and you can face heavy fines if you are caught.

But in the end, what really gets me is this, If you think the certified organic program is such a farce, such a meaningless, bureaucratic,  farce then why do you keep putting the name organic on your products?

I'll tell you why . You are saying that you believe organic is good. Why else are you labeling your products as such if you don't think organic is the way to go? If you really had pride in the way your animals were raised, the way your produce was grown then why aren't you promoting it that way? Such as "Chemical Free" or "GMO free seed" or " Raised without antibiotics or hormones"

So please keep your labels honest. Say what you mean, mean what you say.

And now on the lighter and sweeter side, Keith harvested our first big bucket full of honey for the 2012 season. He and the bees did a fabulous job. Me? I ordered the honeycomb bottles. We all have to do our share around here.

* The saying "Set my hair on fire"  must be credited to friend DS,
a very bright nursing student with a wicked sense of humor.


  1. Man oh man, that lying organic thing would more than ruffle my feathers. Know your farmer, know your food. Any way to rat out the lying farm? Not that I'm into ratting, but lying is plain wrong and in this case, quite illegal.

  2. It happens everywhere. A neighbour was telling me recently that another farmer who claims to be 'organic', buys in products from other 'non-organic' growers, and sells them as his own. If there's a slight premium in there, there's also going to be skulduggery.

  3. good post, hopefully those fees you have to pay for inspections will also cover the need to inspect him.

  4. Well said. Integrity still counts.

    I hope your hair fire was contained before it could ignite anything else...;)

  5. Why does none of this surprise me? We've just launched a mini-campaign here to inform our customers that we use the words "free-range" in the literal sense--as in you come here, you trip over a chicken, don't wear your good shoes 'cause you know you're going to step in um, you know. Free range for real. Yeah, it's not pretty on the ground, but oh, it's so much better for you and the birds.

    So yeah, this sets my hair on fire as well. However, this is a problem not just with the farmer you know, but all over. The words organic and free range can be translated a little too liberally, and there's nothing honest farmers can seem to do about it but make their customers aware. Keep fighting the good fight!

  6. We say that really "burns my butt" here...LOL But I so understand what you mean about mislabeling.. People ask if I do things organic.. I am like nope just natural as possible.. Of course I rarely sell to the public as that is not my goal.

  7. If people continue to flaunt the rules and label organic incorrectly it's going to cause trouble with the legislators and they are going to either make the rules tougher for those doing an honest job or they are going to simply ditch the organic labelling altogether and no one will be allowed to label their products organic. To protect your own way of life you may have to become organic police and rid the countryside of these liars.

  8. Excellent rant. Unfortuntaly agribiz is fudging on the organic labeling too I think. Or rather, they're urging congress to loosen the definition. Anybody who thinks GMO'd foods can qualify for organic though, is absolutely clueless.

  9. Donna, I agree with you 100%. It is scary to pay extra money to buy something labeled "organic" when the farmer or grower is not willing to go the distance to back up that label with TRUE organic practices. I think the exception of being able to sell under $5,000 worth of stuff every year and to loosely label it "organic" is something people aren't aware of. Certified Organic is truly "certified." It's gone through a system of checks and balances to make sure the label is affixed only to those who earn the right to use it. I do think there are people out there trying to capitalize on the term itself, without doing the hard work behind the scenes to go thru the scrutiny needed to verify their methods. Keep writing your wonderful posts that are very educational. We want to get our land partially approved for organic certification and have just begun to learn how EXTREMELY tedious the process can be, from the very start. It's not an easy process, nor cheap. I guess that's why other people throw out the term while not going thru the red-tape...I would not buy from someone like that. I'd rather them say "Independent Farmer" or something like that instead of making a false claim of being organic.


  10. While we're primarily a vegetable farm, we do raise some livestock. Our vegetables are grown 100% organically from seed to harvest (non-certified), but I try to be up-front and let people know our livestock is not. We do raise them outdoors, on pasture, but cannot justify the high cost of organic feed for the very small-scale farm that we are. So, I let people know on our web site as well as when they ask about our practices, that our animals are fed a locally-grown, freshly-ground feed that we buy direct from a farmer 10 miles down the road. No, it's not organic, and I tell them that. It's the same methods that Joel Salatin promotes in his books. However, I will say that sometimes people assume that our small amount of livestock is organic because our vegetables are. Even though I tell them we're not, I think sometimes it's not completely understood. Ah well, I don't lie to them, but I know that sometimes it's misunderstood no matter what I say (add to that the fact that we do sell a neighbor's certified organic beef cuts, and it does get confusing to them, I suppose). We're only raising 4 hogs & a few hundred meat chickens, plus a couple hundred egg layers, most of the pork is for our own family, but we'll sell some of it to offset the cost of what we keep for ourselves. :-)

  11. THIS is a Renegade Farmer Post! 100% agree and have heard of certain farmers doing this also. It's a particularly twisted little trick, and undermines organic family farms, like yourself.

    I respect everything you and Keith are about! Keep doing what you are doing, I think people will know the difference with quality foods like yours!

  12. I attend 2 farmers markets and on Saturday a customer asked to see my organic certification. He was very inquisitive, which I am very grateful for but it seems that we, the certified organic farmer, have to prove ourselves and the conventional farmer doesn't. They should post signs stating they use chemicals. I totally get what you are saying.

  13. I usually don't leave comments on web sites. I read your opinion and move on.
    But this one hit right on the nail head.
    People do not feel shame when they lie, it is accepted by a lot of folks as if it is OK.
    It is NOT OK, NEVER!!!!
    But your "rant" was so truthful I had to let you know how great I think your post is.

  14. Totally agree, Donna! At my old location where there were lots of farmers at a grower's market (a term they preferred to use as everyone there selling had to grow their own stuff to sell), and many were in the process of wanting to be certified organic. So, they had "chemical-free" produce and advertised it that way. I bought from them more often than not, because i wanted to support them in their efforts.