||For the eighth year in a row, MUM’s farm has met the high standards for organic certification, thanks to the recent inspection by the USDA-accredited Nature’s International Certification Services.
Steve McLaskey, who heads the farm, said that in order to sell certified organic produce, the farm must renew its certification each year by meeting the rigorous federal guidelines.
The process involves extensive paperwork in which Dr. McLaskey documents all facets of the operation: what crops are grown, what is done to maintain fertility of the soil, the steps taken to prevent soil erosion and degradation, the practices used to control weeds, pests, and diseases, how the produce is harvested, and what steps are taken to insure the produce isn’t contaminated after being harvested.
The onsite inspector reviews all the paperwork beforehand, and then during the inspection checks to make sure that the paperwork accurately reflects the farm’s practices.
The inspection also entails examining the records kept by the farm, which must document all products sold so that any product can be traced back to the field in which it was grown and the seeds purchased to grow that particular crop. The records must even include receipts for the purchase of the seeds.
The inspector also checks to make sure there’s no danger of contamination. Since the farm is bordered on one side by a conventional farm, there needs to be at least a 30-foot buffer strip so no chemicals from the neighboring field will reach the organic crops.
Dr. McLaskey said the inspector was extremely impressed. In her report she wrote, “The organic agriculture program at MUM is amazing. The soil building, composting, greenhouse operations are second to none. . . . It was truly a pleasure for me to have the opportunity to visit with Steve and MUM.”
The farm has over one acre of greenhouses that are used year-round, and over five acres of fields that are used in season.
The farm grows a wide range of produce used in the MUM dining hall and sold at the Golden Dome Market and at the Fairfield Farmer’s Market.
At peak productivity in mid-summer, the farm employs as many as a dozen staff members, volunteers, interns, and students, and harvests several hundred pounds of produce a day.
Dr. McLaskey said that he’s a fifth-generation farmer, with his great great grandfather having purchased a farm in Illinois in 1832. “It’s a fulfilling job. I’m following my family dharma.”