What I’ve learned this week: lots of potential farms exist out there! With websites ranging from exceptionally helpful, to “getting there,” to somewhat incomplete. Granted, it is difficult to imagine a farmer sitting down at a computer to design a fancy website (I am currently learning website editing, and it’s not so easy), so I completely understand the shortcomings and commend them for taking the time out of their busy schedules to get online or work with administrative assistants or website coordinators. I am seeing a lot of links to social networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter, of course, which is fantastic. Also, several have blogs and the ones with CSAs usually have newsletters. However, the less information available on the website, the less I have to go off of for my preliminary filtration of all the education or research-based farms in the target regions.
Nevertheless, I looked closely at a few college/university-affiliated farms and other nonprofit farms dedicated to training young farmers. I am no marketer, but I need to start thinking how to reach out to the the staff members of these places other than just through a brochure. I will definitely collect some testimonials from the folks involved and/or impacted by the certification at Dickinson and hopefully from more farms already in contact with FA.
I came across a couple of biodynamic farms, which will probably need to hear how Food Alliance can compliment biodynamics. According to the What Is Biodynamics? page on the website for the Pfeiffer Center (a biodynamics teaching farm), biodynamics “combine[s] novel techniques of building up healthy soil with a renewed awareness of all the forces at work in the farm organism: among and between the soil, plants, animals, and humans, as well as the cosmos itself.” It involves applying overlooked trace elements to plants through compost and liquid teas and following lunar cycles, among numerous other philosophies. FA generally aligns with the fundamental ideals of biodynamics, especially with the inclusion of the human element and can likely complement the Demeter Biodynamic Farm Standard Certification, or for those farms that don’t wish to go all the way for the biodynamic certification, FA could serve as a valid alternative. The same goes for organic.
I am not finding too much information on the farm websites regarding their specific practices, such as pesticide usage reduction, soil, water, and energy conservation, safe and fair working conditions, wildlife habitat conservation, and humane livestock management. This could be because farms are constantly changing, trying new methods, so it may be difficult to keep up. Most of the information I have been finding involves energy saving initiatives, such as solar panels, biodiesel operations, and using horses instead of tractors. This makes sense, as energy is such a hot topic and we should be moving toward alternative energies, but this doesn’t mean we should overlook water usage or employee safety, in terms of farming.
Now onto finding more farms within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, which collects runoff from every farm within the 64,000-square mile area, and delivers it to the Bay, home to the best crabs and oysters (I am from Maryland, so I am just slightly biased). I am very connected to this watershed, so I can’t help foreseeing the positive impacts that more FA certifications in the region could have on the Bay.