By Melody Meyer
Jessie Gunn, Marketing Manager, Wholesum Harvest, in support of Hydroponics in Organic
OPN Connect: What are the basic tenets that organic production is based on?
We focus on the intentions of organic agriculture. It’s all about the quality that we leave the earth in and how it’s treated while we grow organic food. We try to look outside the square meter that our crops are grown in. The intent of OFPA means taking care of the planet as we grow our food.
I think portions of OFPA focused so much on the soil that it forgot the planet. We must not pillage the planet, we must restore it. OFPA did have the wisdom to address site specific solutions. For instance we grow in shade houses and we grow under glass. I believe that the intent of OFPA is to produce organic food in the means that makes the most sense while fostering organic bioactivity to nourish that plant and without using harmful inputs. When you focus only on the outer crust of the earth you are seeing the tree but not the forest.
OPN Connect: Why do you believe hydroponic and container growing should be allowed to be certified organic?
These systems ARE certified organic production. They represent an absolute conservative and respectful use of the earth’s resources.
Container production makes sense for us because water is an ongoing issue where our production is. These innovative systems allow us to recycle water three times to grow our crops and then the fourth iteration of water is used to grow organic Sudan grass for organic feed for neighboring ranchers.
It helps us work with the people who farm around us, our neighbors and allows us to work cohesively with the environment; that is true organic production.
We grow organically to be part of a bigger picture. If you limit organic production to the outer crust and don’t utilize technology to encompass the intent of organic growing then eventually you are going to make organic an elitist privilege.
Our vision is to see the day when we don’t have to specify organic, instead, that will be the way food is expected to be grown. That day can’t come if we keep organic economically elitist. You can be organic and true to the organic intentions and still look for higher yields and embrace technology.
OPN Connect: What are the advantages hydroponic and container growers have over soil based farmers?
We grow organically in diverse ways, depending on the place. Site specific solutions are valuable and we take advantage of many of them; shade house- high tech glass to recycle our water. We are not going to grow the same way someone in Vermont might. That is the beauty of site specific production in organic.
OPN Connect: How do you offset the argument about bypassing the three year transition period?
Container production represents a huge up-front investment. The basic premise is protecting the plant and avoiding the problem in the beginning rather finding a solution to the problem. If you have a home and you want to secure it there a cost for the security system. If you have plants and want to avoid outside pressures you make a HUGE upfront investment.
The only way for organic production to eclipse conventional, is to find a way to maximize production. In-field production is a more affordable way to farm but may not always be the best way, that goes back to the site specifics in OFPA.
OPN Connect: Would a ponic-organic specific label present a solution in the marketplace?
I think the important part of that question is the word solution. If compromise on the label gets us there, I am all for it. I don’t think we should redo the USDA logo. “Greenhouse grown” or “Container grown”, even “Hydroponic” (though we don’t produce hydroponically) is not a bad word for consumers.
I believe people who grow organically with these methods do it because it’s the right thing for people and the planet. I struggle to understand why everyone doesn’t want more organic food to go to more families. We believe everybody deserves access to organic food period. That’s the moral compass guiding us to these solutions.