By Hannah Moser of Forager Farm
As a first-year farm selling direct-to-consumer vegetables policy is not something we’ve had to deal much with as of yet. However, the overarching Food Safety Modernization Act or FSMA rules still to be implemented tend to hang over the decisions we make as a farm in the next couple of years.
We have plans of integrating livestock into our vegetable operation, including a small goat dairy as well as laying hens and pastured pork. This allows us the ability to turn waste from the vegetables into a saleable product and also provides a built-in fertility program. Not to mention utilizing the animals to manage weeds (especially perennial), clean up finished crop, and incorporate cover crops.
These FSMA rules would stifle even responsibly integrating livestock into vegetable production. We think diversification of our farm ecosystem and revenue streams will lead us to be more successful. These rules are all put in place under the idea of keeping food safe. We think knowing your farmer and taking the time to understand their farming practices is the best way to get safe food. Some of these rules would apply to our farm and some of them would not. However, they do stifle our innovative spirit.
We started the farm in our home state of North Dakota because it has an up and coming local food scene. It allows us to be leaders and even pioneers in the local food market. After only one year of our CSA, we are starting to see the need for some policy changes in North Dakota to allow for more sales of local food straight off the farm.
This legislative session, the local food community is hoping to pave the way to help more North Dakota farms sell more products directly. This would happen by defining some of the rules and interpretations through a cottage food law. As it stands now, there are two different governing bodies over local foods: the North Dakota Health Department and the North Dakota Department of Agriculture. Since the Health Department has jurisdictions in separate districts, what one county allows another county may not. The cottage food law will set clear rules and create a committee to decide what is allowed (or not allowed) to sell from the farm here in North Dakota.
Other than helping shape our local policies we’re working on wrapping up our year. With the end of October comes the end of our first CSA season. As relieved as we are to slow things down a bit, we can’t help but reflect on our very first year of our very own vegetable farm. At times a feat we thought we’d never get through, but here we are. Although the deliveries have stopped and there’s not much left in the field, there’s still plenty of work to do before the snow begins to fall.
At the top of our list is planting our garlic for next season; garlic is planted in the fall, mulched, and dormant until the conditions are right in the spring. Then there’s cleanup of drip tape, tools, etc., and prepping of fields for next year. So we’ll forge on through November and drift through the winter with intermittent moments of rest and relaxation and planning and organizing for our 2015 season.