Our Organic Pledge
After being organic certified for 7 years, we have decided to discontinue our organic certification. However, we pledge to continue using the same organic practices that we have been using since 2015. The only difference is that we will not be officially certified anymore.
The reason behind this change is that we simply could not keep up with the demands of the certification process. Due to the vast variety of produce that we grow and the small-scale of our farm, we struggled keep up with the paperwork that organic certification requires.
Sheila Bird Farms pledges to continue using organic practices which aim to promote ecological balance, use natural resources in a sustainable manner, and preserve biodiversity. For a complete breakdown of our organic farming practices, including the various products and seeds that we use, please refer to the page below. I have included links to other resources where you will find more information about these inputs and practices. I will keep this page updated in order to keep our customers informed about any changes we make going forward.
If you have any questions/concerns in regards to us discontinuing our organic certification or any of our practices, please contact us by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be happy to answer any questions you may have. We hope that you will continue to enjoy our farm-fresh produce, grown using organic practices here in Laramie, WY!
Ricky, Hannah & the Sheila Bird Farms Crew
Inputs include soil amendments, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, cleaning products, etc. Almost all of the inputs that we use are certified by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI). The one input that we will be using that is not OMRI certified is the manure we get from Prairie Monarch Bison. I've included more information about our use of manure as a soil amendment in the "Other Farm Practices & Resources" section below.
Soil, Soil Amendments & Fertilizers:
Prairie Monarch Bison manure
Pesticides & Herbicides
Seeds & Plant Stock
Our organic certification required us to use organic seed/plant stock whenever possible, unless it was not available. If it was not available through at least three organic seed suppliers, we were then allowed to use seed that was not organic. However, the use of GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds was not allowed under any circumstances. We pledge to continue using this system and adhering to these rules for purchasing seeds going forward. Below is a list of seed companies/nurseries that we routinely buy from, with links to their websites where you can find more information about them.
Other Farm Practices & Resources
Manure as Soil Amendment
As we mentioned in the "Inputs" section above, we are able to source manure from Prairie Monarch Bison, which is where Sheila Bird Farms is located here in Laramie. The ranch is not organic certified anymore, but they have also pledged to use organic practices. Normally this would not be possible under the restrictions of our organic certifier, so discontinuing our certification allows us to utilize this valuable resource right in our backyard. For more information about the agricultural use of manure, follow this link to the University of NH Extension website.
Every year, we rotate crops in our fields and hoop houses in order to maintain soil health and manage pests. For example, each year we alternate which of our two hoop houses we will grow tomatoes in. Every year, we create our farm plan so that we don't grow any crop in the same spot two years in a row. For more information about crop rotation and why it's important in organic farming, check out this article by the Rodale Institute.
We use spring, summer, and fall cover crops to help manage weeds and prevent erosion in our fields and hoop houses. The main cover crops we use are clover, winter rye, field peas, oats, and hairy vetch. During the growing season, we plant cover crops in our aisles and walkways. During the off-season, we plant cover crops in the unoccupied fields and hoop houses. If you're interested in learning more about the benefits of cover crops, here is a great article from SARE outreach.
Our watering system includes a mix of drip irrigation and overhead sprinklers. We use drip irrigation whenever possible in order to conserve water. Our water is sourced from ground wells on the Prairie Monarch Bison ranch. Every year, we test our water to ensure that it's safe for agricultural use. Click here to view the results from our most recent water test.
Integrative Pest Management
Integrative Pest Management (IPM) uses a variety of pest management strategies in order to keep animal, insect, and soil-borne pests at bay. Besides the OMRI certified insecticides that we listed above under "Inputs", we also use biological controls including beneficial insects like ladybugs, green lacewing, parasitic wasps, and nematodes. Animal pests are the most destructive and problematic type of pest that we have at the farm. We use push/pull strategies including the OMRI certified poisons and repellents listed under "Inputs", as well as live traps and other physical controls. The ground squirrels at the farm has been so destructive at times that we have enlisted the help of the property owner to eradicate them using lethal force. We are animal-lovers, so this is our last resort when our other pest management strategies are not effective.
National Organic Program Standards
If you would like to dig deeper into the standards for organic production, please refer to the National Organic Program (NOP) handbook. These rules and regulations are used to guide accredited certifying agents and certified operations. These are the standards that our organic certifier used, and we will continue to follow these guidelines as per our organic pledge. Click here to view the NOP handbook.