Arctic Organics is a small (six acres in production) organic farm tucked beneath the jagged ridges of Matanuska Peak just outside of Palmer, Alaska. Owners Sarah and River Bean serve 150 families with their CSA program, sell at the Anchorage Farmers Market, provide greens to two Palmer restaurants (Vagabond Blues and Turkey Red), and open their farm stand to the public for two hours each Friday.

They are committed to organic, sustainable agriculture yet they can’t label their produce as organic. Until the fall of 2002 they held an “Alaska organic” certification from the Alaska Organic Association but when the Federal government took over the term “organic” the Beans decided to pass on the label. This was part cost (the new regulations require certifying agencies to be accredited, which Sarah estimated would cost $10,000, or $2,500 per AOA farm) and part philosophy, since the language created, as Sarah puts it, “standards we didn’t feel were high enough anymore” (visit the ‘organic certification’ page of the Arctic Organics site for more on their decision to skip the ‘organic’ label).

It doesn’t surprise me that reading a label isn’t enough to protect against industrial farming but it does make walking into a grocery store a little dispiriting, especially in a place like Alaska with limited local food choices.

[Still image gallery from Arctic Organics]

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