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On the Shoulders of Giants {Week 18 CSA}

Building a national movement is immensely hard work requiring steady effort and time to be successful. Rebuilding that same movement is only something a farmer would consider.

Undauntedness is a quality farmers have that can be hard to find in other professions. Even if a farmer doesn't have much of it to begin with, working with the inherent unpredictabilities of the land (and the inevitable failures it brings) is a daily training in perseverance. There's no other option really, especially when you've invested heavily to farm in the first place, which most of us have. Walking away from it all is like closing a door on the love of your life—even with all of its drama, you know it's still worth it.

The ability to see beyond the tangled challenge of the present and carry on over and over and over again is what enabled a new organic movement to arise. It's a movement seeking to reclaim what's been lost. We've written about The Real Organic Project before, when we were certified by them, but we recently had the opportunity to meet with its founders and leaders and walked away with awe and motivation splattered across our minds. These folks, including Dave Chapman of Long Wind Farm from Vermont and Paul Muller of Full Belly Farm in Capay Valley, are some of the original pioneers for the organic movement in the 1980's and 90's. They pushed hard to get the National Organic Program (NOP) started and their efforts are why we as a nation enjoy the USDA organic label on so many foods today.

But as we've mentioned previously, that label has been undermined by corporate lobbying and a lucrative dilution of standards. After heavy political push back from true-to-name organic farmers back in 2017, when the NOP was considering tightening standards to align more with its origins, it became clear that the agency was too far bought. The hundreds of farmers who spoke at that meeting didn't budge a single vote. They were mere whispers against the cacophony of the giant machine that is Big Ag and the USDA organic label now bows to the latter.

In our recent meeting with these tireless farmers, we were motivated by their mission more than ever. While we've been long aware of the shortcomings of "industrial organic" food production, it was invigorating to hear their plan of action. The movement to get a National Organic Program in the 90's was a grassroots effort that garnered the support of the communities surrounding the farms involved. Communities just like this one. Little by little, farmers helped their shoppers and supporters understand that they were fighting for a label that would help everyone know how their food was produced. A label that could speak a thousand words.

Dave Chapman and Paul Muller—true legends in their fields. ;) We met at Full Belly's gorgeous farm in Capay Valley and learned about how they did this before and how we're doing it again.

In an age where chemicals that were developed to be pipe cleaners are sprayed directly on our crops (at harvest, no less!) with a clear carcinogenic track record, we need an organic label. And since many of the same companies who spurred that initial need have now infiltrated and contaminated the reliability of our first attempt, we must take the reigns from the corruption and steer this problem to the folks fixing broken things every single day: our farmers.