Organic Farming, Certified or Not!

February 20, 2024

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Gain insight of approaches to farm sustainability by integrating organic practices into your farming system. Some may seek certification, but that depends on your markets and drive. We will discuss the values and challenges imposed by organic certification vs. following organic practices.

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The 2024 MI Ag Ideas to Grow With conference was held virtually, February 19-March 1, 2024. This two-week program encompasses many aspects of the agricultural industry and offers a full array of educational sessions for farmers and homeowners interested in food production and other agricultural endeavors. While there is no cost to participate, attendees must register to receive the necessary zoom links. Registrants can attend as many sessions as they would like and are also able to jump around between tracks. RUP and CCA credits will be offered for several of the sessions. More information can be found at:

Video Transcript

Good afternoon everyone. Welcome to our Michigan Agriculture Ideas to Grow with Virtual Conference beginning farmer track. My name is Mariel Borgman. I'm an educator with MSU Extension and I work on community food systems. And I'm very excited today to welcome you all. We have a great session today about exploring organic production and figuring out if certification may be right for you or what fits well with your farm operation. Let's go ahead and jump into the presentation. So I will turn it over to Vicki and Katie. Thank you so much for being here today and sharing with us. Great, thank you very much, Mariel, for a great introduction into this program. Hi, I'm Vicki Morrone. I'm at Michigan State based on campus in East Lansing. And I'm in the Department of our Community Sustainability. And I associate with the Center for Regional Food Systems. I will share with you half, and then Katie's going to take the other half. And we compliment each other and build on each other's information so that you can really think about this. It's a big question, a big commitment. And it may be just the perfect fit for you and it may not. So we go think about this and maybe dot ideas down in your head as you're going through these questions. Because maybe you want to share this with your family or with people that you're partnering with on the farm. Why farm organically? What is the value for you, your family, your community? Do you find a better approach to farming? If you go organic, do you find that this is an avenue you want to explore or become certified in? What do you have to know, at least to start farming? What are the basics and what's the first steps? And hopefully we'll give you some points of what are the key aspects of farming, both certified and not. Do you see an environmental value for the community and for the whole environment? How will your markets respond or will you have to find new markets? And I say this thinking of perhaps a price premium for organic produce or the marketing of it through labeling, proper labeling and whatnot, all goes with the certification process. How will it impact your bottom line? There will be changes in your fire management and your market. Hopefully there's premiums and sometimes you have to work with the buyer around that. What are the equipment needs, especially around weed management. And what are the logistics of managing the record keeping and the equipment management and the storage and all of the aspects that go along with organic. This table will take a minute to look at and it's talking about the farm means for different kinds of farming. Okay. Farm means we have conventional farming, organic that is certified through the US Department of Agriculture National Organic Program. And then we have transition, which means your first three years of farming, how are you getting prepared to become certified organic? And I think the three primary areas that are of greatest importance are demand in your organization and time of seeds and plant securing or purchasing soil and plant inputs and then weed management. Weed management is the toughest challenge for organtic farmers because there's no herbicides that are readily available. Conventional with seeds, you can use any seeds or plants that suit your market and your soil. You may keep records for the sake of crop insurance or NRCS, like the equipment program. But where is it Organic certification? You have to use organically produced seed that actually say USDA organic on them. And so it means you have to buy them from a commercial certified producer or your own seed. If you've raised them and kept records of producing the organically, you can't just buy them from a farmer down the street who says they were organic. Record your search. If you can't find organic seed, you record them and that's part of your paperwork. But regardless of what seed you want, can it be GMO or a treated seed? Treated seeds typically with a pesticide on it. That is not allowed record transaction and this is true for all the organic practices. Record your transactions for both your better farm management as well as the certifying agent who will. Be part of the certification process whereas orgetic tradition, and that's the first three years when you're preparing to go to organic certification, that again, use the same practices, certified seed. If you don't find certified seed, you do a record that search and find a non GMO or an untreated seed and maintain records. And the records would be part of your packet that goes in after the three years for your organtic certification. And they've left these blank circles on each of these to show the differences in oh dear. Okay. To show that this is where the USDA or NOP agency is not requiring them. That's the only difference basically, between organic certified and organic transition. It still involves record keeping and following the practices of organic. Whereas the conventional you can use soil plant inputs, insecticide, urea, NPK for fertilizer and MPK is nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus. Whereas orgetic certified you can not use Urea or chemical fertilizer use, things like manure cover crops, anything that's a natural origin. And then for plant inputs, you would use sprays that are allowed and you can check if they're allowed through website, It's not part of the US Department of Agriculture, but they work with them to verify inputs. But of course if you're certified, always check with your certifier if it's allowed. And then for organic transition, it's the same and you just don't have you don't have to show the records to your inspector. And lastly, the weed management and herbicides are a typical process for many conventional farmers. Some farmers who are doing field crops like soybeans and corn, they may use a roundup ready corn or soybean variety, where they spray the round up on when the plants are just germinating to kill weeds. Obviously, in organic we cannot do that. We use an integrated cropping system approach. It's kind of like IP, integrated pest management, only you're using the whole system from pest to nutrients, to soil health, to plant vigor, plant production and plant yet yield. And so you consider how can I incorporate cover crops to help me manage weeds. What's the judicial tillage so that they don't end up with hard pan? So I'm not destroying the soil aggregates. Those, those mighty creatures that protect your organic matter. They surround that organic matter, protect it. But if you keep tilling, and tilling, and tilling, you break those aggregates and then a smart crop rotation. Of course, here you keep your records for the certifying agency as well as for better farm management, organic farming, how do you do that? What are the steps for this? You choose whether you're going to be organic or not, and you have three years of transition period. That means for the last day you used or somebody used a non allowable input on your land to three years following, That's the point when you can start becoming organic. That's why there's three years there where it's not only preparing the land, repairing the soil, repairing yourself, learning how to do records, understanding all the different insect pests and weeds that are of critical problems to you, to learn how to manage them. So it's a learning period for the soil and for you. And so you're developing a record keeping system. You use records to improve your practices. Reflect on them. In the wintertime, say what worked, what didn't. How can I adjust aligning your markets? Do I need a new market? Do I need more markets? Do I need less markets? Talk with the market masters, the market managers, whomever, so that you are all both on the same page. And then manage your land as well as your harvest organically and follow a farm plan. And that's like ICS, using an Integrated Cropping Systems approach. Keep learning. We all keep learning. Every time I talk with farmers, I learn something new. Every time I'm on a conference call with the Cover Crops team, I learn something new. And it keeps us thinking about how we can incorporate that into our farming system and make it stronger, then source appropriate equipment. Like I mentioned, weeds are the biggest challenge. How are you going to manage those weeds? Improve the soil. Organic matter is slow to build, but as long as you're going in the positive direction, you know you're doing the right thing. Sandy soils takes a little bit longer to build organic matter, things leach faster and it's a little more difficult for that organic matter to bind onto the soil, whereas clay soils, they're great to build organic matter, but then you've got drainage challenges. That's why we say loam is the best of both of all worlds. It's a little bit of both. Manage land and harvest it organically. And that's the basic steps to get there and decide is it in you to do this? Then what is there to do to get started? Take a soil test and make a plan to address the basic needs using organic inputs. That's if you go to you can see what's allowed. Say you have a product that you found online that you want to try out. Well, is it organic? I don't know, Check out and if you're not finding that, call an organic certifier. Even if you're not hiring them, they'll be happy to help plant a cover crop. Cover crop holds that soil place. It can be used a little bit for hay or for a mulch if you cut one time and leave it. But its whole purpose is to hold that soil and to recycle nutrients and build that organic matter and then find sources of seed that are done. Gmo, we're getting seed. I don't know about you, but I've gotten about seven seed catalogs in the last month. There's lots of places to look. You can look online. You can look at the seed catalogs from your mailbox. You can ask around. You can go to your local farm stores. If you borrow equipment from a conventional farm, which you may in your first years because equipment is expensive, be sure to clean it and record that action. Set up and maintain a record system that works for you and which system you use is up to you watch, observe, and ask other farmers if there's twilight meetings, there's farm walks, take advantage of it. It's the best way to learn by seeing, asking questions, talking to other farmers, talking to extension educators. Everybody has a little different perspective, a little bit different experience to share before the first year goes by. You are transitioning into organic. You develop a farm system plan. And Katie's going to talk a little bit more about that. If you're not going to go organic, do it just to be more sustainable. This is the way to do it. Is records, reflection improving. But what if this happens? You prefer to spend time elsewhere and what is not the time needed to certify selling direct to the consumer. And you can't tell your farms story. Sell your story such as at the farmer's market. Maybe you don't need to go organic. You think that's enough? They know that I'm doing my best I can for the environment, for my crops, and for my family. You can't get the market value or price premium. I've been disappointed. Farmers markets, there'll be two out of six vendors who are selling vegetables or fruits that are organic, certified organic. And they don't have a price premium. And maybe that's a Michigan culture. I don't know. But it's a little frustrating, I think, for organic farmers not to be able to get a price premium. If you go to big markets, you will see the difference. There's more competition there. And perhaps there's more people who want organic. I don't know. Perhaps you don't want to work with a government agency, and that's the US Department of Agriculture. Or you feel that your farm is not what the USDA NOP organic represents. And there are other options and Katie's going to share about that too. If you're organic and how do you manage this? If weeds get out of control, especially perteal weeds, what do you do? Where do you start to build the soil? What are the first steps? Some things to think about. Ics, What? Integrated cropic Systems? How do I take it all into account? I said it's a whole system. It's a lot of stuff to deal with, soil, pests, crops, markets, it's all wrapped into a big management plan. And then record keeping what information is needed and not needed and how do I best represent that. That works for me and that will satisfy the certified agency. With that, I'm going to go ahead and turn this over to Katie. But first I wanted to share, this is a QR code if you'd like to do QR codes. But also Mario is going to put that in the chat URL and you can copy that. It's a Google Drive folder that has all of this information plus the, the list and Katie's and my slide set that we're sharing today. The list of alternatives to USDA. Aop is what she's sharing, which is already there. And then our slide set will be there shortly. But you're welcome to use this at any time. Not just today, but whenever it's open to you. If you want to share that with a colleague or a farmer friend, feel free. Now, over to Katie. I'm Kate Brandt with the MSU, Organic Farmer Training Program. Thanks so much, Vicki, for all that good info. We're going to fly through this because it's a lot of info. This is the format for the talk. I know there's a lot of info, but all of these will be shown again as we go through the process. If you're thinking about organic, early questions are to decide, do I want to certify as organic, Do I want to do organic exempt, Do I want some other certification? We'll talk about your options for all of that next step, or sometimes these are reversed. Sometimes people go organic first and then decide, fine, there was a question in the chat about this. You can either harm organically for three years as your transition period and then certify as organic. Or you can get a prior land use affidavit signed by yourself as the landowner or by a previous landowner. Skip that three years of transition and be certified as soon as you have your inspection reviewed. Next step would be to apply. You got to choose a certifier and we'll look at some of your options for that in this talk. You'll also need to send in your organic system plan, or OSP, the application form records, and you'll be paying a fee for organic certification. Some of the other certifications are free. The certifier will then review your organic system plan, all your records and application materials, and they might request some more records. That's fine. That doesn't flag your application or anything. That's pretty typical to need some more records. Then your inspection. This is usually a farm walk and a look through your records and we'll look a little bit more at the details of that in a moment. Then the compliance review is where the certification agency takes your application and everything they learned from the inspection reviews. That again, they may need more information and reach back out to you, but then they can make a decision. It might be to grant your organic certificate. It may be to issue a noncompliance. Noncompliance in general are things that can be repaired and fixed. Maybe they just need some more information. However, they may revoke your certification. In that case, it is actually possible to overturn that. I had that happen once because I had said what I was going to do in my organic systems plan and then I did it and they said that's against the rules. They had to rescind, revoking, and then you can apply for cost share if you got the certificate, and that cost share is $750 So when I show the prices for organic certification, keep that in mind that you can shave $750 75% of your costs or 750 total off that certification. I think it's fantastic that a lot of people in this room are considering organic. Let's make sure it's right for you. They may have lost. Secondly, we lost E. Yeah. So while we're waiting for her to come back, I'm going to answer some of the questions. If the packet of seeds or the calog says it's USDA NOP, it is not GMO organic, does not allow GMO, and it does not allow treated seeds, so you can be sure that it's organic and not treated and not GMO. Hybrid is not GMO's. So sad, so many people think hybrid is GMO and it is not. Hybrid just means somebody took some pollen from one flower and placed it on another flower and labeled it, and there she is, take it away. Katie, sorry about that. Usually the cost is 402,000 and you can get that organic cost share from the US Department of Agriculture, the USDA. To offset that, a lot of people might not be aware of this option for very small farms that have less than $5,000 in annual und organic exempt. I think the idea behind us is if you're a backyard gardener and you want to sell some tomatoes as organic, you can do that. Let's see, there's quite a few others. I'm not going to go in detail on all of these. You have in the folder that Vicki shared, you have the opportunity to see this full document. Certified naturally grown is quite popular. That one is a sliding scale, it's certification by another certified naturally grown farmer. You'll have three people certifying each other. The meat is also popular, that is to protect waterways here in Michigan. This is the prior land use affidavit that this is one I used on my own farm, a farm site when I purchased that, I wanted to certify it right away. I did this. My first farm site had been in conventional onions the year before. I needed to go through course of transition, we chose to use the term Earth friendly until we were certified organic rules for crops. Vicki mentioned quite a few of these related to seeds. I'll add in some of the details on manure. You can use manure from non organic livestock. Those should be composted with temperature records. There's particular temperatures you need to meet for a certain amount of time. It just needs to be applied 90 days before crops that don't touch the soil and 120 days before crops that do. That's called the 91, 20 day rule. Buffers is another thing, and I can talk about that in another slide. Organic Rules for Livestock. We do have less livestock producers in Michigan who choose to certify. The costs for feed can be a barrier, as well as the inability to use antibiotics and some of the other medical treatments that the farmers might want to use. For the larger farms, sometimes access to outdoors is a barrier. But with a lot of the direct market farmers, they're doing intensive rotational grazing anyway are really shining with that rule. Dairy and poultry has some unique rules that you could look into if you were going to raise those livestock animals. Vicki mentioned, you can literally just find this label on fertilizers, pesticides, et cetera. If you can't find it, I would recommend calling the certifier of your choice. The certifier you think you will want to certify through, or the certifier you're already working with to confirm. It's an expensive process to get something listed. As am I know for a while, like Morgan composting Dairy, a lot of the certifiers were aware of their products but they hadn't gone through, they were acceptable. Here's those manure temperature rules that I referred to. I think that's the important stuff. The first thing that everyone thinks of with organic farming is the synthetic pesticides or just the no synthetic pesticides? The synthetic fertilizers is really important in terms of soil health, but is less recognized, I think, by the general public. In addition to that, there's a lot of positive things you need to do, crop rotations, prevention of pest problems, et cetera. We've gotten to the point where we're thinking about applying for organic certification. In that case, it's time to think about what certifier you want to work with. This is just the top six or seven from my chart of certifiers you can choose from. The USDA also has a listing of all the certifiers. It's a long, long list and a little overwhelming. I put this one together, you can see the costs are quite variable. 14 is a common range, but then we've got a couple in the 400. And even as low as $300 range, often those have a sliding scale. If you were a very large farm, in terms of acres, in terms of sales dollars, you might be the higher end of the scale. Smaller farms would be down at the lower end of the sliding scale, I would say. When you're thinking about the certifier, the region they work in, their communication with, you are probably two of the most important things. And then after that, I would think about price if you have a low cost certifier, but they don't answer your questions, that really could put you at risk of losing your certification and might not be worth it. Second step in applying after you've chosen that certifier is getting them the paperwork they need. One of those things is a farm map. You might already have this if you're already farming. You've got names for your fields. It's going to show the acreage. It might show the buildings and facilities. But one thing you'll need to add is the buffers and the neighboring land use. If you're adjacent to conventional farms, you might not know when you apply in March for your organic certification of what they're going to grow next year. But tracking what they typically grow in those neighboring fields, I have to admit the way this one is cut, you can't see that, but you would need to include that. Typically, 25 feet is good for that buffer. If you're adjacent to like a corn field or vegetables or something like that, in orchards it can be wider. I've heard of 100 feet being required as a buffer. It's not a standard number. It's what's needed to prevent drift. Record keeping, this is a really bad image. This was a screenshot of the application. This is actually the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association, the Ofa application. One thing to note, these are check boxes. You don't have to have all of these things that are listed in your records. You just have to have the ones that are applicable to your farm. After you get through that time for the inspection, you're going to want to make sure you have all your records ready. Whether that's on your computer or an app on your phone or handwritten records so that they can see those. You're also going to do a farm walk. They might want to see your pesticide storage area. They might want to see the fields. They might have questions about things like your crop rotation. And then one of the things that they'll ask you is for a seed to sale description. And they'll say, tell me a crop is what they almost always say. Tell me a crop you harvested this week and let's take it all the way back to the seed. You could say I harvested spinach out of my hoop house this week. I sold it to restaurant. I sell to the seed was from this company. We planted it on this date. It went into this field. It was harvested on this date and stored in this walking cooler. That's what they mean when they talk about seed to sale. If you've gotten through all that, then you get a decision letter. It might be an organic certificate, if you've done everything right and you're great at keeping your records organized and we're able to answer all the questions of the inspector the day of or immediately mailed them. E mailed them anything that they asked for at the inspection that you didn't have that day. This is the Organic Certificate for the MSU Student Organic Farm. You'll get a new one every year as you go into a second or third or fourth year of being certified organic, last year's certificate is active and live until you get certified the next year. Even if you don't get your certificate until December of the year you're certifying the first, you really want to, I think are good about prioritizing decisions for first year applicants so that you're not waiting till December. You might get a notice of noncompliance, and that's, like I said, often a request for more records, it could be a request that you do something a little different. It wasn't big enough to revoke your certification, but they want to see it done differently in the future. What that looks like, this is the corrective actions report for the MSU Student Organic Farm. These were minor, noncompliancesstly, as long as we fix that problem, we would be fine in the future. I mentioned having my certification revoked, so here's what happened. I bought sweet potato slips from Johnny's seeds, and they were not well labeled on the website as treated that they had been treated with something. I put that on those. But then when they came out for the inspection, they were looking through my planting list and said, this isn't allowed. They were going to revoke that section of my field. It was about a quarter acre section. I said that was on my plan and they said, oh, oh, no, that was our fault but it's really an important error that you made, so we don't know. They looked into it and they were able to reinstate my certification even for that field. I think that's pretty rare that that happens to reinstate it for me. It was a good reminder. I was so happy I had four acre fields that I was tracking for my certification that I'd gone really small, that if they hadn't been able to reinstate, most of my farm would have still been organic and I could have put cover crops or something. I didn't need to certify in that section for three years. Last step is your organic cost share. This is the whole application. It's like a page and a half really. This might be a, this is a few years old. This was from 2017. Get the up to date one. There's enough funding out there for anyone who meets the qualifications to get the $750 or if they paid less than $1,000 to get 75% of whatever they paid. The form comes out at the end of each year. It's a good thing to do. I encourage people to get your organic cost share money. Here's a couple of things that might be useful to support you if you're deciding to transition to certified organic or some of these might even be useful if you just want to transition some of your practices to organic as well. The transition to Organic partnership program has quite a few different parts and pieces. This is a new national program just started last year. We're pairing mentors and men's right now, you can follow the QR codes to sign up as a. The benefit you get there is you get to spend 40 hours working with a experienced, certified organic farmer to help you figure out your organic system, plan your production practices to make this work for your farm. Maybe you'd even need new marketing practices to make this work for your farm. The mentor would be available for all those questions. Most of this could just be over the phone or over zoom. But we are asking mentors and mentees to visit each other's farm once a year if you're thinking of signing up as a mentor. There's also a stipend. You would get $3,000 per year per farmer that you're mentoring. Most of the people here in Michigan are mentoring one or two transitioning farmers. The mentorship is only for folks who are committed to pursuing organic certification. But technical assistance and learning opportunities are really open to all if you're thinking about certified organic. But you're really not sure. It might be good to reach out to our team at MSU Extension that's working as part of this project. Reach out to me. Muriel is also in this room. Who's part of the project? There's two conservation districts that have a full time person devoted to this washing conservation district and Grand Traverse Conservation District. We'll have people focused on this. Msu extension has five or six folks, then our network partners. This is a cool part of the program, we're working with Michigan Food and Farming Systems. Crosshatch up near Traverse City, keep growing. Detroit. Ooh, I'm forgetting my fourth one. Oh, Michigan Organic Food and Pharma Alliance. They are providing some technical assistance if you have questions, and then also hosting events to get the word out to their members about this opportunity. Last, I'll say the learning for this program. We're going to do field days. We have one scheduled on June 8, which is a Saturday. We're going to be going to two farms, Sanctuary Farm in Detroit and Green Things Farm in Ann Arbor are both going to have a day focused on compost and soils for organic farming. Then we're also planning for field days in Kalamazoo and the upper peninsula. Kalamazoo one is going to be about marketing for organic blueberries. The upper peninsula is going to be a look at a certification. What does an inspection look like? What records did they keep at the North Farm, which is hosting it, in order to be certified? We're also going to do webinars such as the one today. We'll have workshops at some conferences to you can follow those QR codes if you'd like to sign up. Another support is MSU, Organic Farmer Training Program, that I teach. This is a combination of field trips to farms. We go to 20 or 25 farms. You got to see lots of good examples of certified organic farms, sustainable farms that choose not to certify urban farms, et cetera. Then we do online learning, where people put together farm plans and set forth their vision and how they're going to get there. Then we have hands on learning. We've got two sites nowadays, we keep growing Detroit Awesome partner. I'm so lucky to work with them. Then we also have a group learning in East Lansing at the MSU Student Organic Farm. With that, any questions and I can stop sharing if that helps. And one program that Katie did list was the Meat Verification program, and I recommend that to any beginner farmer, organic or conventional or non organic, but environmentally sound. However, it's just they show you your practices and how they impact not just the environment but your pocketbook. Right? If you're not getting the water efficiency that you intended for that crop, you might be losing some of your crop or because of disease, or because of drought. And then of course, water conservation is always key in all the environmental aspects of farming. That's the MAP and it's free. And it is a verification. It's not certification, but provides a sign. A lot of farmers enjoy having that at the farmers markets or at their markets to show that, hey, I verified, I care about the environment. This is how what I've done because they guide you to change practices if you need to. Other questions, comments, resources you'd like to share. Somebody asked, does the process differ between livestock and plants and crops? Yeah. The overall process is basically the same, but livestock is probably the most challenging of all the certifications because you have the animal itself, it's feed. Dairy I think is probably the most challenging in that after the third trimester when the calf is born, at that point the calf needs to be managed organically. Fed organic in animals USD NOP cannot receive antibiotics and so you've got all those things to think about. Then you've got your fields. If you're growing your own food for the animal, whether it be a pasture or a grain, and each of them do have a. Katie, help me on this. I always forget the three sectors or the different types of certifications that you can get for animals, for vegetables, if you have poultry, and if you have a hoop house and you have a greenhouse, you'd end up with three different what's certification types basically is what it is. But that allows you to apply for cast share three times for each certificate you receive. You can apply for cast share. It's not just one per person, one per farmer, it's one per certificate. Yeah. You might also have a handler certificate if you're buying organic products and reselling them. You might also have a processor certificate if you're buying organic ingredients or growing them on your own farm and then processing those into salsa or whatever looks like. Another question came into the chat about to produce organic compost. The criterion is composting temperature, and not whether any of the material itself is organic. Yeah. Great question. Kim, what I would say is that you can use raw manure or composted manure or other composted products on your organic farm, whether they come from organic or non organic sources. The difference with the temperature and those records is whether or not you can use it immediately before harvest. If you're going to apply raw manure, right, you wouldn't want to put that on your spinach right before you're harvesting it. That's what I was talking about with the 91, 20 day rule. It's not proving 100% that it's food safe. Mariel is more an expert on this than I am, but it is going to provide some food safety to get up to that temperature and remove some of the pathogens. I want to add, Vicki. Yeah. Kim. I was the process for making organic compost is, of course, you keep records. When in doubt, keep records, but you need to turn it three times. When it gets to a temperature of 170 or 165, you need your thermometer to check that you turn it. And so you have to follow the organic process to call it organic compost. And that organic compost can be a like Katie said, I don't know if I'd put it on my spinach right before I harvested, because it's not going to do any good anyway, because the spinach is done growing. But I'll say 131 degrees for 15 days with five turns. There you go. That's the 131, 15 and 5. Is your other sequence of numbers to remember, you want to, as you're working with your collecting your manure and such, you keep that away from your crops so that if there's runoff after rains or the irrigation gets out of control or whatever, it's not going to leach into your fields where your crops are. There is an alternative route to get for wind rows that's different than the five turns. I think a lot of that was developed to work with Amish farmers or people without the equipment to do those turns. But you could certainly look that up online. Right. And Mike, you mentioned, can you use scrap paper? You can use anything. And like Katie said, it doesn't matter if the source of inputs to the compost is or is not organic. It does not matter in the USDA rules. So you can use any cardboard or newspaper or whatever for your carbon source in your compost. And that's fine. You don't need to verify where it came from or any of that. That's one thing you don't need to verify are the sources where your inputs for your compost come from? Which is fine. So I was just looking at the compost standards that I linked in the chat. I guess there are things that are not allowed in organic compost. It's things like plastic, utensils, profoam treated wood. There are things you wouldn't want to use, but you wouldn't want to put those in your compost whether you're organic or not. Right? And treated wood is a good thing. So if you have a carpenter who does a lot of work and has a lot of sawdust, if they use treated wood, you do not want to use that sawdust. And sawdust is very high carbon. So if you use any kind of sawdust, whether it's from trees that you've just cut down or whatever, be cautious because the carbon rate is very high and you would need quite a bit of nitrogen green source to balance that out. Oh, no. Okay. So yes, you can use mulch, you could use paper. Yeah, yeah. Even straw. That is not from Ororganic Farm. You can use. Yeah. Doesn't matter. I'm wondering, Katie, have you heard anything about like inks or what's on the paper? We used to always say don't use colored ink in your compost. But now it's all so so base, which of course is GMO. But anyway, they don't care about that. In the composting world, yeah. Yeah. You could just use recycled cardboard boxes or recycled paper. One thing I would add with the straw, if you're buying straw from a farmer, it can be conventional or organic. Those are both acceptable for a mulch. Sometimes, however, if you go to like a big box store and buy a bale of straw, they've been treated with chemicals to prevent the seeds from sprouting. And that is not allowed for organic, the labeling on that is. So I don't think the organic certification organizations have a lot of questions around that, but I would recommend buying from a farmer's co op or a farmer with your straw. Yeah, but beyond the pesticides on the straw, look for a straw or hey, that it doesn't have a lot of weed seed in it or even wheat seed, because it doesn't matter if you're organic or not. Nobody wants more weeds in their garden. That's for sure. Yeah. And if you're doing something like garlic that's fall planted, you could get, if you can get barley or oat straw, those might sprout in the fall, but they would be winter killed. So that's an option too in su cover crop. I like it. All right. Well, thanks everyone for coming. We do have one more question if we go time. Kim had another question Oh, no, thanks, Kim. About using treated wood bins to store compost, like people that use pallets or things that compost storage. Oh yeah. You can have treated wood on organic farms, but it must not be in contact with soil that you're producing crops on. Sometimes there's treated wood around a building where there's a but say I think what he's thinking like, what if you took palettes and you stored your straw on top of those palettes so that we keep it dry. And then, and you cover it with a tarp. And then you take those palettes. And the bottom bale of straw has been in contact with that palette, will that matter? And then you're going to go put that around those garlic or whatever. Yeah. Yeah, I think he was referring to compost that in my mind. The compost would count as soil if you're going to use that in areas that you're that you're growing crops in. If it was compost that you don't plan to use in your certified organic crop production, you just plan to put it in some flower garden at your house. It would be fine, but in general, I'd say just steer clear of anything that has soil contact. Where this often comes up is baseboards. For hoop houses, there's often a wooden board along the side of a hoop house. You can see it maybe in my picture behind me. Treated wood would make those last longer. But then you would have to move in several feet from the edge of the hoop house because of that soil contacting it. Most people do not use treated. If you look on the right hand side of the screen, follow the second hop, right behind that second hoop, you can see the wood.