OMRI’s efforts to direct more resources to more farmers and gardeners is hitting new strides, as we plan our booth and presentation at this year’s Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup, WA. Even though so many organic professionals know about the OMRI seal, we continue to work on making OMRI resources more available, and easier for the general public to understand and use. As a nonprofit organization, education is at the heart of our mission. We are looking forward to explaining OMRI’s resources to all consumers who are interested in organics.
So what is OMRI? Our organization was formed by organic certifiers back in 1997 to focus exclusively on the products and materials used by farmers. Where certifiers look at farming practices and the whole production system during the certification process, OMRI carefully analyzes each individual input product (including each ingredient and manufacturing process) to determine whether it meets the standards for organic use).
- We serve organic producers and farmers by making it easy for them to find and recognize fertilizers, pest control products and livestock feed ingredients that meet organic standards.
- We serve organic certifiers by reviewing input ingredients ahead of time, so they know right away which uses are allowed.
- And we happily serve the public by offering a free list of over 2,300 reviewed products on our website at www.omri.org, along with an easy to recognize logo that you can find on products in your local garden store.
I started working for OMRI in 2009, arriving with a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Science and plenty of hands on experience with organic farming systems. I had heard of OMRI, but I didn’t know the depth of the OMRI product review. I was also surprised to learn that input product labels are not required to declare all ingredients. The more I learned, the more excited I became about this great service for organic farmers.
Though I came from a relatively conventional agriculture college, I have always focused on farming organically. One of my first attempts at starting a farm was a collaboration with my partner. We commuted 15 miles, worked full days on the farm, and then commuted home. Transporting the harvest of 30+ types of vegetables back to town, and processing all of it in our carport amused and inspired our neighbors! However, living off-site limited our ability to keep animals, and we suffered plant losses mostly due to deer in spite of our 8 foot electric fence. We quickly realized that living on site would be necessary in order to make our vision of an integrated farm, with vegetables and livestock, a reality.
My partner and I recently became organic farmers ourselves, starting in June of last year with a small vegetable and egg CSA. We are young farmers – both turning thirty this year – and we do not have family land. In the spring of 2011 we entered into a lease with the option to purchase from the Biodynamic Association the 35-acre Junction City, Oregon property that we farm today. We moved in and hit the ground like mycelium running, building hoop houses, establishing semi-permanent fencing, and amending the soil. Before we arrived, regional members of the Biodynamic Association had visited the farm regularly and applied biodynamic preparations rich with microbial life. We were also told that sheep had lived on the pasture for some seasons in the past. Despite these good practices, the soil was quite low in nutrients and acidic. Compost, fertilizers and rock minerals were all needed to balance the pH and nutrients. Some inputs, such as compost, we continue to produce on the farm. Other products, such as kelp meal and limestone, we buy packaged or in bulk. Because we are committed to growing organically, we refer to the OMRI list before purchasing any products. Working at OMRI, and knowing what to look for in the products we use on our farm, will continue to be a huge help as we embark on this farming adventure!
I’m looking forward to introducing the OMRI resources and review process to many interested producers during my presentation at the Mother Earth News Fair! I will cover everything you need to know to find the right products to keep your farm or garden truly organic, including what makes a product compliant with organic standards. And I hope we receive lots of visitors at our booth #920, where we will be giving out free OMRI lists. We are looking forward to talking to you and answering all your questions about organic input materials.
Amber Lippert will present a workshop at the Puyallup, Wash. 2012 MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR.