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Going organic

Photo by Jean Bilodeaux
Peggy McKie, program inspector for Nevada’s organic certification program, explains what organic farming involves.

July 9, 2006

By Jean Bilodeaux, Herald and News

DUCK FLAT RANCH, Nev. - Much confusion surrounds the word organic when applied to food products being grown, raised or processed for market.

During a tour of Duck Lake Ranch about 20 miles south of Eagleville, Peggy McKie, program inspector for Nevada's organic certification program, explained the lengthy process of obtaining organic status. Duck Lake Ranch is one of 28 certified organic producers and handlers in Nevada.

“It takes at least three years to become eligible,” McKie said. “There is no difference between organic and certified organic, they must all be certified by a third party and meet Nevada's and national organic standards.”

McKie explained that organic is used to describe an agricultural product that has been produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, growth regulators, artificial preservatives or additives, irradiation, sewage sludge or genetic engineering.

Organic also refers to the manner in which the agricultural products are processed, packaged and transported. Land on which organic products are to be grown must be free of prohibited materials for three years before becoming eligible for organic certification.

Farms and processors with sales of organic products that total less then $5,000 per year are exempt from certification but cannot sell their products as “certified organic.”

Farmers markets are a good place to find locally grown organic produce. Each certified organic farmer must have a certificate, seal and number, listing the certifier.

Duck Lake Ranch is an organic alfalfa hay growing operation.

A recent outbreak of perennial pepperweed threatened the ranch's organic status as control of the noxious weed is paramount to saving the fields. McKie worked with the ranch manager developing a plan to retain its “organic” certification, yet used pesticides to control the weed.

There are 15 certified organic farms in Modoc County. Except for one horseradish operation, the rest are raising organic alfalfa hay, which is fed to organic certified dairy cows to produce certified organic milk.

“Organic farming is a growing niche market. I inspect the farms before they are certified and annually thereafter,” McKie said.

Correspondent Jean Bilodeaux covers Surprise Valley. She can be reached at (530) 279-2031, or at P.O. Box 5, Cedarville, CA 96104, or by sending an e-mail to jeanb@hdo.net.




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