Recently members of the MUM Sustainable Living Faculty discovered that many local farmers are growing food adopting safer alternative methods — but are not marketing it as organic because the USDA Organic Food Certification process can cost dollars, time in maintaining records, and takes 2-3 years.
So they teamed up with members of the Fairfield community to create a healthy food certification method called FAIRfood
The FAIRfood Certification was designed to give small local farms a way to distinguish their responsibly grown crops from farms that use traditional methods, without incurring that expense and time delay.
The 17-point FAIRfood certification (see detailed list below) is based on USDA organic standards, but does not require a paid certification company to inspect, check the records and certify the farm. In the Fairfood system, MUM inspects the farm for free to check that they adhere to organic standards, and if farmers are approved they can then use the Fairfood label.
MUM Associate Professor Apachanda Thimmaiah says: “FAIRfood certification is a contribution from MUM to promote co-operation, unity, justice, a sense of duty and to respect local farmers who are not polluting Mother Earth.”
MUM’s interest in the FAIRfood certification is not simply theoretical, however, because the FAIRfood standard has been adopted as the guideline for food purchased and served at the Annapurna student dining hall on the MUM campus.
See also recent blog posts on Fairfood:
More about Fairfood
- Synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides, hormones are prohibited.
- Organic manures are to be used for nutrition management. The biomass like plant residues, animal wastes, green manures and mineral inputs can be used.
- The botanical pesticides and minerals are used for pest management.
- The source of irrigation water used in farming should be free of pesticide and other toxic chemical residues.
- All farm inputs containing GMO’s are prohibited.
- Organic farms should be sufficiently separated from the polluting sources like industry, construction sites, quarries, main roads to avoid any source of contamination.
- It is advised to use organic seeds and planting material. Wherever the organic planting materials are not available care should the taken to avoid the seeds being treated with pesticides prior to sowing.
- The farm tools, implements and farm machineries must be cleaned before use in organic farming if it has been used in the conventional chemical farming.
- Parallel production is not allowed i.e crops in organic fields must be different from crops in conventional chemical farming fields. It is advisable that the farmer converts the entire farm into organic.
- Farmer must maintain records of crops cultivated, inputs used and the farming practices undertaken.
- If the neighbouring fields are using the synthetic chemicals, the organic field must have a buffer zone to prevent the contamination. A buffer zone of a maximum of 5 meters should be maintained from the adjacent field wherever possible looking into the ground situation. It is always advisable to grow a different crop in the buffer zone than the main organic crop. If the contamination is by irrigation water care should be taken that the water source is not used for irrigation of the organic crop by constructing drainage bunds or trenches or adopting appropriate scientific measures. If there is a possible contamination by air through spray drift, live fence or tall growing crops should be planted along the boundary.
- The organic certification status is provided depending on the past history of the use of agro-chemicals in the region substantiated by the soil and water analysis. In areas wherein there has been no history of use of synthetic agrochemicals, the crops can be certified as organic in the very first year.
- Burning of crop residues and biomass is prohibited.
- The use of human waste (night soil), sewage sludge, and urban waste is prohibited.
- The animal wastes and biomass should undergo the exothermic (hot) composting process to destroy the pathogens and weed seeds.
- Farmers should adopt measures to maintain soil fertility and prevent soil erosion.
- The prohibited synthetic agro-chemicals must not be stored on the farm.
“This system of labelling is good if the food does not travel too far and also if there are only 2 “actors,” i.e., producer and buyer.
If there are intermediaries in between then this system is not feasible as it involves establishing the tractability through out the supply chain. It’s ideal for promoting local foods.
In Mahatma Gandhi’s words these systems can be called “Gram Swaraj” since “gram” means village and “swaraj” means freedom, i.e. – liberation, freedom, liberty and self rule of the villages.
Gramswaraj aims at making every village self-sufficient, self-reliant, and self-governing entity.”
– Dr. Thimmaiah
Most of the locally grown produce on our campus lunch menu came from the Southern Iowa Produce Auction (SIPA) near Drakesville, Iowa. The Amish community in southern Iowa uses the auction to encourage families to farm together. They believe that they are stewards of the land and water, so they take care of it for future generations.
The auction encourages both small scale and larger capacity growers to learn form one another. They share knowledge across generations and between families. Without outside “English” buyers, they would cease to grow food on a large scale.
Meet The Farmer
Jeremy Waugh is a beginning vegetable farmer, now farming on his grandmother Pearl’s hay ground.
This year “Pearl’s Produce” delivered 500 to 1000 pounds of vegetables per week. It was all sold within 50 miles of the farm.
He has been Annapurna’s main zucchini grower this year. If you have eaten on campus at MUM, you have also eaten his sweet corn, tomatoes, squash and cantaloupe.
Barbara Stone sustainably manages 5 acres of hothouse vegetable production in the Vedic City Greenhouses.
Annapurna purchases cucumbers and tomatoes for the salad bar from this green house all year.
Wayne Nisley has a 180 acre farm near Lockridge, IA where he grows food in 4 high tunnel structures. His family of 12 also maintains 20 acres of vegetables for local markets. The Nisleys milk 200 goats a day!
He provided melons and cabbage for Annapurna last summer.
Susan and Francis Thicke
Susan and Francis Thicke are owners of Radiance Dairy, a truly sustainable farm that has exemplified the Fairfood and organic ideal since 1980.
This grass based local dairy began with 2 cows and has grown to 180 cows that provide fresh organic milk.
Click the image to view a panorama of the MUM organic greenhouses: