AgriTrue – A New Standard in Agriculture
This is exciting to me, for too long in my view consumers have been denied a basic level of information about where their food comes from, how it was grown and how it is treated.
Additionally small scale producers have not been able to truly tell consumers why their food is better than pesticide laden, genetically modified and herbicide laced food in grocery stores. The establishment of course has given us the “Organic” label as a solution to this problem.
The problems there are many…
- “Organic” is OWNED by the USDA, they decide who can and can’t use it. Yes they own the word organic, which is ironic since the word predates the US Government and basically means, “carbon based or derived from a living organism.”
- The cost of “organic” certification is cost prohibitive for many small growers and many large producers as well. The cost is one thing but the administrative costs and miles of paperwork to stay current are the real problem. Farmers should be growing food, not pushing pencils. A large farm may spend over 33,000 dollars just to be certified.
- “Organic” certification does nothing to tell the consumer who produced their food, where it was grown, steps beyond the organic process that the producer takes, etc.
- The “Organic” label was designed as a marketing tool, not in the best interest of the producer or the consumer.
- Organic has become an “all or nothing approach”, there is currently no middle ground. Many consumers would be happy to buy from a producer that may use some fertilizer but pledges not to use GMOs, Herbicides and Pesticides and farms sustainably with a soil improvement program, but until now no such middle ground has existed.
- Organic certification is excluded to people who do not produce for for resale like hobby gardeners, home gardeners, etc. They can say their food is organic as they are exempt but there are not really part of the program. They have no voice in the standard.
- What is and is not “organic” is complicated to explain and understand. The regulations and standards are thousands of pages long.
- Most importantly the “organic” label is NOT a free market program it is run by government, policed by government and serves the needs of regulators more than consumers.
In short when you buy “organic” produce today you know that certain things were not done to it but you don’t really know what was done to it, you don’t know who grew it and you on many levels are taking the government’s word that it meets a standard. I will frankly take the word of a local farmer or my neighbor over the word of a Department of the Federal Government any day!
Additionally there are now calls for GMO seed to eventually be considered as acceptable for organic use. Considering that one of the biggest reasons people choose organic food today is to avoid GMOs, I personally find this unacceptable.
So I have started working on a new program to fill this void called AgriTrue. The program is currently in an infancy stage but we do have a few things off the ground.
- The New AgriTrue Website
- AgriTrue on Facebook
- AgriTrue on Twitter (no tweets yet, but they will come)
- The VERY early draft (pre beta) of the AgriTrue Standard
There is a lot of work to do yet. If you want to help build out and expose the world to this new standard, consider sending me an email to jack at agritrue.com and put AgriTrue in the subject. I plan to launch an invitation only forum this week, when I do I will let anyone who has emailed me know about it.
From this point forward I will post almost all AgriTrue information at AgriTrue.com, so make sure to subscribe to the email updates or the RSS Feed there if you want to stay connected to this new movement. Given the concept is now a whopping 5 days old I think we have come a long way, fast.
What constitutes a “chemical” herb or pesticide? Not being flip. Is DE a “chemical” pesticide?
@bluprint no DE is a natural substance. It is available from nature, it has no toxic effects on humans.
In the end we will need something akin to a “list of approved substances”. We just are not there yet.
I’ll be watching the growth of AgriTrue and hopefully I can help make it a reality.
I would like to propose an additional (required) “Standard of Disclosure” which will complement the “Standards of Production” (if you will excuse the term). So, in addition to meeting the required standards, the producer would use the standard of disclosure to elaborate or elucidate the standard of production.
For example, I think one standard (which you already have defined) is that the producer guarantees he does not use chemical herbicides but then he should also be required to disclose what processes or products he uses to control undesirable plants. Aside from encouraging specific disclosure I think this would help settle specific conflicts: some people might think DE IS considered a chemical pesticide where others take the opposite position. The standard of disclosure would settle it in that the producer would be expected to reveal what he does and we can all decide then if the specific processes are agreeable.
So the profile for the producer in this regard might look something like:
– I do not use chemical herbicides.
Related Disclosure Standard:
– For control of undesirable plants we use mechanical methods such as hoeing and manual pulling of grasses and weeds.
– I do not use chemical pesticides.
Related Disclosure Standard:
– For control of undesirable pests we employ inter-planting of herbs including mint, basil and tarragon to discourage infestation of certain pests. Additionally, we inter-plant marigolds and nasturtiums to encourage habitation of insects which predate pests.
I think you have something very good in the works here Jack.
As a farmer, I really like bluprint’s proposal. Allowing the farmer space for a little explanation as to what they are practicing allows for all that hard work, remaining “natural” to pertain directly to marketability. It would encourage the consumer to read over the profiles like they would the back of the cereal box 🙂
That there be language inserted to at least strongly advise (if not require) that farmers allow for farm visitation, in some manner, from their paying customers. This could be at the discretion of the farmer, and implemented as the farmer sees fit in order to maintain his own security, and enough transparency to the Agritrue customers.
Since we currently rely on government inspectors for organic 🙂 and the lack of inspectors for everything else, the consumer will need to be his own inspector in a free-market system. If this is put into the document’s text it will make sure that this responsibility is laid bare in the open for all to realize. It would establish a standard and allow farmers who are transparent to market this fact.
If the program is free, voluntary, and the farmer gets to write his own disclosures, consumers need to realize that they have to take responsibility in making sure they are dealing with someone reputable. In this sort of an arrangement the consumer is actually taking a part in the food production system. There is responsibility that needs to be assumed and realized. It’s not like the current system where you sue if you get sick because its someone’s fault. It should get to the point of farmers rallying behind each other to support the standard and fellow consumers looking down on the lazy one’s who don’t take their food safety seriously.
I could also see a need for some sort of forum or feedback system. Not like stars or check marks, comments would be better. If we implemented a feedback system at the AgriTrue site it would allow for a readily available option that is regulated to mesh nicely with the system. Otherwise I could see trashing boards pop up as the primary place for feedback.
“allowing the farmer space for a little explanation”
Matt if you read the document you will see he is already proposing a place in the producer’s profile for additional (optional) information sharing.
I’m proposing that additional information be required in addition to just confirming compliance with the set standards.
“strongly advise (if not require) that farmers allow for farm visitation, in some manner, from their paying customers”
I’m fine with the strongly advise part. But for me, requiring visitation could add a threat to the producer. As a small time producer selling at a farmers market, I wouldn’t want to let just anyone come to my “farm” for visitation. This would keep me from becoming AgriTrue certified.
@Matt, NO we will not REQUIRE producers to allow visits. Some will and some won’t consumers will make choices and decide how important that is to them. Now I do think we will have two types of endorsements, “bought from” or better “received food from” and “visited”.
I will tell you what I am seeing though, it has been so long since most people have seen a real free market system (some never have) that people are struggling with the concept.
Why would we require anything other than a minimum set of standards when the system allows full disclosure and full choice and consumers then use that to make choices of who to do business with?
I want everyone who wants to make stricter standards to do the following,
1. Look up the definition of free market system
2. Write the definition ten time a day until it resonates with you
I am kidding here, well at least a little bit.
In the other thread I expressed concerns about verification. This disclosure idea is an interesting one I think. If I may ask a question. Would this disclosure be a “legal”statement which if violated (maliciously) would constitute fraud?
We have been dealing with thoughts of such things on our farm in CA. We have come to the conclusion, with aid of our attourney, that if such agreements are made contractually between the farmer and the consumer, it is not withing the state’s jurisdiction or rights to impose on the private contract. Two individuals have the right to engage in a private contract without state oversight. The state steps in only when law is broken.
Mabey these should be kept as agreements between the farmer and the paying customer? That way it is the customers responsibility to sue if it comes to that, and not tied to state law from the start.
Mabey there should be reasonable or best effort clause to mitigate the farmer’s liability?
I didn’t mean to encourage any interaction of the State in the agreement, other than the fact that any legal agreement is by definition…legal, which is governed ultimately by the courts.
The law being broken in my question is involving fraud. If a producer enters into an agreement where he says “This does not contain X, Y or Z” and he knows it does, he is engaging in Fraud, which I believe is a crime.
Or perhaps you’re saying this is a civil matter, rather than a criminal one. Either way, I think that threat can be a means of discouraging bad behavior (violation of the standard, or agreement).
@KAM again FREE MARKET SYSTEM. If a producer is cheating they loose certification, done the end. If there is a crime or civil matter that is between the parties, it is NOT AgriTrue’s business. AgriTrue does VOUCH for producers it simply provides the standard and the platform.
sounds a lot like “naturally grown” great idea Jack.
As small farmer/gardeners we’re very excited about this. It’s been so needed. Thanks for all your efforts!
this is why it Authentic Haven Brand Natural Brew from grass fed livestock free of GMO/GE tainted feed, antibiotics, growth hormones, herbicides and pesticides… Haven family has been farming and ranching in the same fashion since 1853
I look forward to keep in touch as things grow here, feel free to contact me if I can be of help <|;-)
Glad you are here!
Just as a matter of clarification–I wasn’t suggesting that AgriTrue would be involved in any Legal actions. As Matt had mentioned, the agreement would be between the producer and consumer, and as you say, the legal action would be between those parties.
The (very, very minor) problem with AgriTrue is that I can see people abbreviating it to “A T”. Now this is fine – but it may come to pass that people will start offering an independent Testing service to validate claims. This will be AgriTrue (claim) and (independent) Testing – or, quit possibly, abbreviated to AT&T.
/bonk self on head.
I second the idea of a ranking system. But I do think it should be as simple as putting a few stars, or carrots, or broccoli or whatever ranking system were chosen. Then a comment board. The kind of people who would be interested in an AgriTrue label, would hopefully, but not necessarily be sensible.
As with any comment board online, you have to take it for what it’s worth. So I say keep it simple and let people say what they want to, and see what happens.
At least people could have an idea of other opinions.
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I do have a question,
Regarding no pesticides, would this be considered blanket? for example Pyrethum is a insecticide that you get from making an infusion of a particular flower. It works by messing with the nervous system of insects. It ( apparently) breaks down in sunlight.
The point is this example is not a synthetic chemical, you grow it in your garden along side the crops you are using it to protect. Those that use it tend to use it to knock back an extreme over population of an attacking insect. It is highly recommended to prefer the use of catch cropping, and diversifying the ecosystem of your garden, but there is this option for spot usage when there *are* no predators.
I do however think soaking your crop in any pesticide, is stupid.
Another example is caffeine. Imagine this.. Growing a few coffee plants, take the berries, and use the flesh to make pesticide and fuel alcohol, and roast the pit as coffee beans. ( you can also use the pit to make more fuel alcohol and more caffeine, but I believe more would prefer to produce their daily fix)
@Entity, while I have to research this substance it doesn’t sound like a chemical pesticide to me. In the end as I have said above with anything you use for pest control we will have to have a list of approved substances.
This is one thing the Organic people have right so it would be a good place for us to start in compiling one. I hate to directly emulate anything then do but in this one area it might just make sense.
We might also find a substance or two we allow and they don’t and vise verse as well.
Cool, that is mostly what I thought, but it leads me to have a slight qualm about the use of the word “chemical”. This is because, like organic, is that it already has a meaning that clashes with it’s usage here.
For example, it could be argued that water is a chemical, air a mixture of chemicals, as is the soil in which a plant is grown.
Perhaps it should be clarified with “Synthetic or harmful” ?
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I love the idea! Fantastic!
I was reading over the Draft again, and I’ve got a question on the 30% to any one crop standard. I assume this is to encourage permaculture (discourage monoculture), but I’m wondering if this might exclude some otherwise good producers.
For example: Let’s say I’m a Tomato Farmer–I produce really great, natural Tomatoes, because that’s what is profitable for me, and that I can do well. But to meet this standard, I’d have to restrict that to only 30% of my land.
I’m a bit unclear–you did use the word “variety” so, does that mean that if I had 10 different varieties of Tomatoes(none of which is over 30%), I would still qualify? Or, by “Variety” do you mean totally different product–Carrots, Potatoes, Cucumbers, etc.
@KAM a reasonalble point.
1. Beta standard, written in clay not stone.
2. Not sure, I don’t think 30% is to low, we could consider upping it but say we said 50%, well now we could in theory end up with only two crops.
This is the moncropping component but nothing to do with permaculture, permaculture is so beyond organic or AgriTrue that it is this simple, if it is permaculture it is better than either standard.
This is one that we will has out among the initial group of members in the private forum I will set up today. We will need real farmer feedback, we need to know if it is even an issue if so how big an issue. Like you asked do varieties count? I don’t know, do they, the community must decide. My gut is no.
Do we say for instance “no more than 60% of the land may be dedicated to a single crop and at least X amount of plant varieties must be cultivated. Not sure? How many varieties does the typical small producer plant right now?
Remember it isn’t for the corporate farmer with 1000 acres anyway, it is only for people who sell in a way were the buyer can know the individual source. The answer on this one is we will see.
This was the one thing I was a little uncomfortable with. I’m definitely not an expert on how things work, but my first thoughts are that a legit small orchard or vineyard could have to drastically change their operation in order to meet AgriTrue standards. A guy managing well with just 10 apple trees or grape vines would have to pretty much triple his operation to meet the standards.
The only alternative idea I can offer is that you could make “30% or more of this farm’s land is used for one crop” on the checkoff and let the consumer decide on that one.
I don’t know either–I’m just asking. I barely qualify as a gardener (if you saw my garden you’d know why), but I think I’d qualify for that, and probably most home producers would too. It may be that other small (selling) producers are already meeting that standard anyway, and may be a non-issue.
On permaculture…yes, I see. While not being monoculture is part of permaculture (as far as I understand it), it goes way beyond that.
@Jack, would the no chemical pesticides thing apply to the entire property or to just the planting area? I know very little about certified organic, but I’ve heard that their rules apply to the entire property.
For instance, in my garden, I use no chemical pesticides. I do use insecticidal soap, DE and Neem oil. But my area is plagued by ants. I have some chemical insecticide that I use to combat them when they come into the house.
I need your permission.
I would like to take the podcast where you introduced this and cut out just that segment and feature it on my podcast. I will give you full credit with links to you.
Let me know if its ok.
I think this is a great idea Jack.
NPR just posted an article regarding organic food. This may be a good forum to pimp AgriTrue by adding some comments a the end of the article regarding AgriTrue with a link to the website you created. This would be a start to giving the movement some visibility.
NPR article is here: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/07/20/138534183/organic-foods-have-broad-appeal-but-costs-temper-demand
I would like to see AgriTrue provide an option to indicate if illegal immigrants were used for the food production in any way (i.e. grow, harvest, transport, etc.).
@NotoriousAPP, first I am totally opposed to illegal immigration.
That said NO HOW NO WAY NO CHANCE, this is not a political organization. Again though with AgriTrue you know the producer directly, if something is important to you ask. If you don’t like the answer, buy from another producer.
Besides while I am opposed to illegal immigration who picks your lettuce has nothing to do with how healthy it is.
I do get that vibe after hearing you verbally relay the AgriTrue standard on the podcast but reading through the drafted document of AgriTrue standards I don’t see that explicitly implied. A general suggestion based on your reply is that it would be a good idea to provide a short set of bullets of what AgriTrue is not (i.e. AgriTrue is not a political organization, etc.). I think this would help to define the scope of AgriTrue for anyone that has not or does not listen to the podcast.
Great article Jack, I’ll be tweeting this one and I’m also looking to write an article on my blog about a subject I’m obsessed with thanks to you and that’s permaculture! Keep up the good work!
Great idea and great article.
What exactly is meant by ‘monoculture’? rather than describing it with a land use percentage, perhaps a well thought out definition is needed?
Also, rather than having a list of usable/banned substances, a good definition of chemical/organic substances could be made to describe what is allowed or not allowed – for example, insecticides extracted from plants could be allowed, while a mixture of chemicals purchased at a chemical house is not. A list of products is going to have to be continuously updated.
Jack — Love the idea. I’d like to see location of production as part of the disclosure. In addition to the criteria you’ve outlined, I like to try to buy as local as possible. Also want to know if someone is redistributing a product they’re getting from somewhere else. Thanks!
@m_volans, that is already there. With AgriTrue you have to know who the producer is, it really can’t even work for big box style stores at all, that is the point.
Sounds like a great idea. I appreciate you getting this off the ground. I’d recommend a definition of some of your terms and abbreviations for those of us less familiar with agricultural methods.
I am assuming that DE is Diatomaceous earth, a naturally occurring, soft, siliceous sedimentary rock mineral, but I had to pick that from the 31 definitions that Wikipedia offered for DE. I was only able to pick that because I use Diatomaceous earth in my garden.