Friday, July 21, 2006

Scottish Field

Today we have had a photographer from Scottish Field Magazine visiting (I'm sure that his photographs will not include rusting wheelbarrows and strangely decapitated cows) - he was very quick and calm, there was no standing around posing for 2 hours holding an increasingly heavy pair of secateurs as happened the last time.
My application form from the Soil Association also arrived so I shall have to spend an evening next week looking into exactly what needs to be done to get organic certification. There isn't a seperate section for cut flowers - they come under a general crop growing category and there is obviously a big difference between me and my raised beds and an arable farmer.
There are a few organic growers of vegetables who grow annual cut flowers on the side for local markets (cornflowers, marigolds, sunflowers) but there doesn't seem to be anyone growing organic perennials or bulbs so I expect that it will be a learning curve trying to fit what I do into an existing certification system. That said, the woman I spoke to at the Soil Assocation was very helpful and not dismissive at all - so things have obviously changed in the couple of years since I last spoke to them. The attitude then was that there wasn't really a market for organic flowers so they didn't have a set of standards.
What hasn't changed however is that it will cost the same for me to be registered as a farmer with 1000s of acres or a tomato grower with 100s of tunnels - at £425 + vat a year it is a serious amount of money. It must also take less time to inspect a small business than a large farm so the fee doesn't even reflect the work involved. There must be hundreds of small ethical, sustainable businesses that can't use the "organic" word because they can't justify the fee.


Heather said...


Have a look at ethical junction - do a uk google search and I think it comes up top.

Obviously not as well known as the soil assoc logo - but for £50 p.a it is a much cheaper logo

Also I think that the angle of having Home raised plants 'naturally' (rather than the organic label per se) with blub about how you're being properly eco friendly saving flower miles is so much more relevant to the cut flower part of your business - therefore the ethical basis of your business speaks for itself and doens't need to be organic - organic is wonderful don't get me wrong but it is of course expensive

Jane said...

Thats great Heather - I shall look them up. The more I looked at the Soil Association standards, the more they seemed aimed at large agri-business. I have e-mailed them with a load of queries and await their reply.
One problem I have with the Soil Association's approach is the lack of interest in recycling and promotion of plastic mulches (though they do say it is better to find a recycling unit for your used plastic - I would say it is better not to use acres of plastic to begin with. Organic doesn't seem to be as all encompassing as it sounds.
There are lots and lots of cases where you apply for an exemption from their standards so it could be that cut flower growers have to apply for those - there are few commercially available organic flower seeds, bulbs or plants; plants need to be grown in pots before planting out, rotations are not as straightforward due to perennial planting and so on. I shall wait and see.