ELBA, NY — There are more than two million farms across the country, and those farms employing over 800,000 people. Of those, only about 15,000 are certified as organic farms. Perhaps that's because the certification process to become an organic farm is so stringent.
It took Porter Farms in Elba, NY three years to make the transition from conventional to organic farming. Differences between the two include restrictions in the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, and rotation of crops.
But there is much more to it than that.
"Being certified organic involves an annual process where an inspector comes out to the farm," said Emily Porter, the farm's Promotions And Marketing Coordinator, "They will check the quality of our soil. They will check the quality of our water, they test it, obviously, and they want to know what we planted, when was it harvested, when was it cultivated, when was it sprayed, what was used."
Porter Farms is also a model of biodiversity. Katie Metzler, CSA Coordinator for the farm, says that a visit here will find several different crops growing.
"We don't have what's called a monoculture, which is hundreds of acres of one crop out there," Metzler said. "If you look around you'll see all different crops planted. We've got our vegetable plot, we've got our corn, we have our Alfalfa, we have cloverfields, we have wheat, we have triticale."
The farm also offers a Community Supported Agriculture Program, a cooperative agreement that benefits both farm and customer.
"What people actually do is they purchase a share in our farm," Porter said. "They pay us in advance, and that helps us pay for seeds and for keeping up any of the machinery. It helps us pay for labor costs, those types of things."
Metzler says their members get fresh in-season produce every week.
"Every week our members get a grocery sized bag of whatever's in season," Metzler said.
Reann Engler is an enthusiastic CSA member .
"I like to cook; I like the diversity; I like the way we get whatever is in season. Work with what's in season," Engler said.
Porter Farms connection to their community is no surprise. The family is beginning their third generation running the farm, and Porter says they're teaching the next generation as well.
"My daughter will come out and sell flowers, and my nephew is here on a regular basis with my brother," Porter said. "We just want to expose them to this lifestyle, so they understand the hard work that goes into it, but also the wonderful connection with Nature they can have."
It's a bountiful formula rooted in tradition, one that binds the community in a lush green embrace.
"A lot of our customers want to know, first of all, where their food comes from, but also what care was taken to avoid any potential harmful chemicals on their food," Porter said.
"It gets you closer to the community, you come in here on a Saturday morning and everyone's coming to pick up their bags, and everybody else feels the same way about organic foods and just fresh food and local food," she said.
If you would like to learn more about Porter Farms, click here .
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