Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The ever persistent organics question

Are you guys organic?

We get asked this question a lot by perspective Meat CSA members as well as friends, family and other visitors to the ranch. In short the answer is that we are not certified organic but we do everything in our power to run the ranch as sustainably as possible.

Not only would getting certified create more paperwork for us and increase prices for our customers but there are some things about the organic model that don't make much sense in our circumstances. A prime example of this is feed. The family ranch has been dryland grain farming for the last 110 years or so. We raise our own wheat, barley, oats and some oddball crops each year. I know where the grains were grown and how they were grown. We also raise wheat, barley and oats for hay for winter feeding our grass fed cattle (grains are just domestic grasses and when cut before they make seed, they make excellent hay to supplement our homegrown alfalfa).

We custom mix a feed ration for our hogs and chickens that uses a mixture of our grains with safflower meal from a local farmer that presses the safflower seeds to make culinary oil (what is left after pressing is a high protein meal). We also add in a natural vitamin and mineral supplement to create a balanced feed. Being on pasture too means the critters are able to supplement their own diets beyond the provided feed.

The traditional feed store ration for livestock consists of a corn/soy mixture with a mineral supplement. For organic producers it is the same thing just organic corn, organic soy and organic minerals. Sure there are feed mills that will custom mix rations to not include those ingredients but for the most part, corn and soy is what is available. So when I read articles like this one at OPB that discusses how 20 shipping containers of organic soybeans from China destined for organic chicken feed have been detained by the Port of Portland for invasive species issues it makes me even more convinced that at least for us and our operation, I am much happier to go the local, sustainable route over organics.

Are you an invasive species nerd like I am? Learn more about the invasive species found in the soybeans at the Oregon Invasive Species blog.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012