Do you own a small plot of land? Do you want to use that land to grow organic vegetables, and do you hope to sell some of those veggies to supplement your income? If so, now is the time to get to work. In order to label crops you grow as organic, your land will need to become organic certified; here's how to make that happen.
Have A Land Survey Done Now
To successfully pass organic certification, your land must be free of prohibited substances for a duration of 3 years prior to growing your crops. Prohibited substances include all synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. The first step in protecting your land from prohibited material is to clearly define the boundaries of your land.
While you likely had a land survey done when you purchased your land, it's important to have the process repeated now if you wish to take up organic farming. Once your land is certified as organic, even a small amount of soil or water contamination could lose you that status, starting the lengthy process of obtaining it all over again. Contact a land surveyor from a company like Krause & Gantzer, and have them go over your land deed and chart out your exact borders. If there are any border conflicts between you and your neighbors, now is the time to resolve those conflicts so you can ensure the entirety of your land remains contamination free in the future.
Build A Barrier
With your property lines clearly defined, it's time to build a barrier to further prevent chemical agents such as pesticides or fertilizers from making their way to your land from surrounding properties. When the time comes to plant your crops, you'll want to keep them at least 25-30 feet away from the edges of your property. Within this buffer zone, plant some form of organic vegetation. Nearly any organic vegetation you plant will comply with the federal laws governing organic farming, but the taller the vegetation in your buffer zone, the more apt it is to trap any prohibited particles before they reach your land.
Tall, dense shrubs such as arborvitae work lovely in an organic field buffer zone, but you may wish to increase the profit you make from your land by planting a marketable crop. Keep in mind, though, that any crop planted in your buffer zone must be sold as a conventional crop -- buffer zone plants cannot be marketed as organic.
Share Your Goals
Even with a buffer zone in place, it's a good idea to have a friendly chat with your neighbors about your future plans of growing organic crops on your land. Explain to them why it is important to you to keep your land free of chemicals, and politely ask for their help in achieving your goals. Request that, if your neighbors will be spraying pesticides or fertilizer, they do so on days when the wind is calm. Find out if your neighbors use herbicides to deal with any weeds. If they do, ask if they would forgo their use of herbicides near your property for a promise of you removing their weeds manually.
Talk With Your Town Officials
The last thing you need to worry about in protecting your land from chemicals when you wish to start growing organic crops is your road-side property line. Town officials have a duty to keep the roadways safe and clear of obstructions. In fulfilling this duty, they may occasionally spray weed-killing agents. To prevent the town from spraying chemicals near your land, visit your town hall and ask to fill out a no-spray request. While your town is not obligated to grant you this request, in most cases they'll be more than willing to work with you if you agree to prune any obtrusive weeds and/or brush that grow on along your property as to keep the roadway safe for motorists.
Wait For Certification
With your property lines clearly defined and all land within those property lines kept free of contaminants, the only thing you've left to do is wait. Once 36 months have passed, contact an organic certification agency. The agency will have you fill out an application on which you'll need to provide a thorough description of what measures you have taken to keep your land contamination-free.
The agency will then come and examine your property to ensure you've been honest on your application, and they'll test your soil and any water sources on your land to ensure the land is free of prohibited substances. If the samples pass their contamination tests, you'll be issued organic certification at which time you can begin to grow organic crops on your land and market them as certified organic.
It takes a substantial amount of time and effort to become organic certified, so if you want to grow organic crops in the future you've got to begin the process now. Contact a land surveying agency today to map out the borders of your future organic fields; the sooner you secure your perimeters, the sooner you can fulfill the 3 year requirement of keeping them contaminant-free and the sooner you can request organic certification for you small plot of land.