HARTSELLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Tucked into a corner of Hartselle, not far Interstate 65, there’s a 25-acre spread known as Rosita’s Farm. The farm is one of only about a dozen certified organic farms in Alabama. Owner Karen Wynne is an organic farming consultant. She says there are many reasons why more Alabama farmers don’t pursue certification.
Wynne says some farmers find getting certified more work than it’s worth, especially since they can sell directly to customers at farmers’ markets or through community supported agriculture (CSA) programs. However, for those who want to sell in natural food stores or other such venues, the certified organic stamp can mean a substantial difference in profits.
Proving a farm is truly organic requires meticulous record-keeping. Wynne adds, “you need to trace everything on your farm, from the seeds and the fertilizer that you use, all the way to how you transport your product to the market.”
That applies to organic livestock as well as produce. Both areas also face challenges in infrastructure. Alabama simply doesn’t have the support for organic farmers that many other states have. As an example, Wynne points to one cattle farmer in South Alabama who uses wholly organic practices, but because there is no organic processor nearby, he’s unable to sell his beef as certified organic.
To encourage more farmers to become certified, the USDA has allocated $17,000 to Alabama for reimbursement of certification costs. Those who obtain or renew a certificate by September 30, 2014 are eligible to be reimbursed up to 75% of the cost. Application forms may be obtained by calling the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries at (334) 240-3877.
Meanwhile, Wynne says interest continues to grow in organic farming and she doesn’t see the movement slowing down anytime soon. She sees that as a good thing for everyone in Alabama, adding, “what I really love about organic farming is it focuses on building good soil…that makes healthy plants and healthy animals and then, we’re healthy because we’re eating healthy foods that are full of nutrition.”