Hydroponics and Organics at the VOF Annual Meeting

Should hydroponic tomatoes be eligible for organic certification?
Should hydroponic tomatoes be eligible for organic certification? VOF producers can discuss this and other topics at the Annual Meeting.

It’s time once again for the annual Vermont Organic Farmers’ Producer meeting. This year the meeting will be held on Wednesday, January 29 from 10-2 at the Champlain Valley Expo’s Miller North conference room, as part of the Vermont Farm Show.

This annual coming together of organic farmers and processors is an important tradition that goes back to 1985, when farmers met for the first time to discuss the definition of organic farming. It’s been said that these meetings were sometimes contentious as growers disagreed about what practices and what inputs should be allowed for organic production. But overall, its seems people appreciated the frank and open discussions that challenged growers to improve their practices and pushed them to be more innovative.

I often hear growers comment today that they no longer attend the VOF meeting either because they feel powerless within the current system or that they believe there are no important issues left to discuss.  This couldn’t be further from the truth! The voices of organic farmers and processors are sought after on local and national levels and the opinions of organic producers carry significant weight.

And rest assured, there are still many important issues to discuss where growers’ opinions are needed and valued!

This year one of our long-time organic growers has brought one such topic up for discussion.  David Chapman, owner and operator of Long Wind Farm, is strongly opposed to the organic certification of hydroponic crops and is asking VOF farmers to vote on a resolution to prohibit the certification of organic hydroponic crops nationally.

Farmers and consumers alike can sign David’s petition outlining why hydroponics are not compatible with the organic standards.

VOF supports David’s petition and has included the following resolution to be discussed and voted on at our annual meeting.

Background: In 2010, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) passed a recommendation prohibiting crop production systems that eliminate soil, such as hydroponics and aeroponics, from obtaining organic certification.  In this recommendation the NOSB clarified that soil-plant ecology is at the foundation of organic farming.  Despite the fact that the Organic Food Production Act mandates that the NOSB advise the National Organic Program on implementing the organic regulations, this recommendation has yet to be accepted and added to the law.

Currently some certification agencies certify hydroponic operations as organic despite the NOSB recommendation and the NOP allows this practice to continue unrestricted.  Mexico, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and 24 European countries, (including Holland, England, Germany, Italy, France, and Spain) all prohibit hydroponic vegetable production to be sold as organic in their own countries. Historically, Vermont Organic Farmers has never certified hydroponic operations based on the idea that it is not compatible with organic farming principles.

Proposal: Vermont Organic Farmers demand that the National Organic Program accept the 2010 NOSB recommendation to prohibit soil-less hydroponic vegetable production as certified organic.

I look forward to discussing this and other topics with organic producers at the Vermont Farm Show on Wednesday, January 29th from 10-2 in Essex Junction.  Come join us for a lunch of delicious local and organic food, good conversation, and to make sure your opinion is heard.

Please RSVP for the meeting!

Can’t make it? Not a certified producer? Leave a comment here with your thoughts!

[By Nicole Dehne, VOF Program Coordinator]

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