King Grove Farm, Florida
Hugh & Lisa Kent of King Grove Organic Farm talk about what makes their blueberries more than an ordinary organic berry found in supermarkets. They touch the land with loving hands, and the land replies with a profusion of jaw-droppingly good berries.
“Sure, we might sell more blueberries if we grew in plastic buckets instead of rich soil, used harsh chemicals, and chose blueberry plant varieties developed to elevate yield over quality. But we couldn’t happily live on that land, or put the King Grove name on that kind of product.”
Know Your Farmer | King Grove Organic Farm, Florida
“When the organic consumer is paying a premium for organic food, they are expecting not just good food but are expecting us to use their support to take good care of our land for the future. I take my promise to them very seriously – to me it’s a sacred promise.
The farm was a conventional citrus farm before we converted it to organic blueberries. The organic decision was easy for me. The word has an inner meaning now. If it’s not sustainable, that doesn’t mean it’s neutral, it means it’s UNsustainable. If it’s unsustainable, ultimately it’s destructive and I didn’t want to farm in a destructive way, I wanted to farm constructively.
It was important to me to be able to grow very healthy food for people and do that in a way where I could leave the land healthier and more productive than when I started. The foundation of our organic system is to make the soil as healthy as we can, get as much variety and microbial activity in the soil and allow the plants to pick and choose what they need from that environment.
The plant knows what to do from there.
King Grove Organic Farm Is Being Harmed by Hydroponic Competition
They’re saying “go ahead, go out there, compact the land and level it so it’s unsuitable for farming” This is a huge problem for people like me. Because allowing that cheap hydroponic system, a disposable plastic farm, to be labeled as organic the same way that this farm is labeled as organic creates a situation where, on the shelf, the consumer has no idea.
The prices may be different but they have no idea what it is they are buying or how it was grown.
The standards are so lax and they’ve been eroded so much. There’s so much lack of integrity now in the USDA’s administration of the National Organic Program.
If Farmer A is growing real organic, and farmer B has got this hydroponic organic… then Farmer A has two choices:
Go out of business or adapt to the hydroponic system…
Or a third choice is to explain to people that their product is different and worth more money. That’s my job – to explain to people what’s going on.
It’s frustrating that the hydroponic industry should explain why it’s good but they don’t. They never are labeled as hydroponic and it confuses the issue and ignores the fundamental differences in the growing methods.
People in the general public don’t understand the importance of the soil – it’s not just about clean food – it’s also about stewardship:
Of the farms where it’s produced: taking seriously the obligation to care for the immediate environment (woodlands, wetlands, soil quality). That’s how real communities are retained.
If we have more sustainable farms in this country, we bring back the health of our rural communities. The primary intention of the statues that made the National Organic Program was the stewardship of the soil… it’s the living organisms that are in the soil that create this quality of the food. We’re now understanding now is that this is where there’s a huge potential for carbon sequestration.
Good healthy soil isn’t just for growing good healthy plants that sustain healthy people, it’s also about the larger system. It’s also about having a healthy planet.”