1) Terra Firma follows the National Organic Standards law as enforced by the National Organic Program. We are certified organic by CCOF, which only allows us to use pesticides and fertilizers approved by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI). For a full list of materials allowed, go to: https://www.omri.org/omri-lists
2) There currently exist a very small number of organically approved pesticides. Very few are “toxic” in the true sense of the word. Smothering agents, usually natural oils or soaps are one class. Sulfur and copper-based fungicides are used to treat foliar and fruit diseases. Biological materials use bacteria or fungi to target specific pests or diseases. Bt, the naturally occurring caterpillar toxin, is the most common of these but new ones are being discovered and marketed every year. Biological materials biodegrade rapidly in the farm environment and thus present little or no risk to anything other than the target pest.
3) Synthetic materials are prohibited for use, but just because a chemical is naturally-occurring doesn’t mean it is allowed in organic farming. Several effective, non-synthetic pesticides are highly toxic to birds, fish, or wildlife and have been banned or restricted by the NOP. These include rotenone, an insecticide, and copper sulfate, a fungicide.
4) We practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM) on our farm, meaning we only use pesticides when the threat of economic damage to our crops exists. That said, we have used, and continue to use, the majority of the pesticides listed by OMRI whenever necessary.
5) We advise our CSA subscribers any time we feel that their boxes contains an item that may have pesticide residue on it. In particular, the presence of natural sulfur dust on grapes may cause an allergic reaction in some people, generally limited to sneezing and stuffy nose.
6) Organic farming is about much more than simply “not using pesticides”. Terra Firma in particular follows an array of ecological farming practices that help minimize the impact of food production on the environment.