NASHVILLE — An organic farm in Tennessee says it is no longer buying produce from famers in southern Kentucky who use pesticides on their produce.
The owners of Delvin Farms, which is the largest federally certified organic farm in Middle Tennessee, told The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/11tvjAo) that they used to purchase a small amount of non-organic produce from a group of Mennonite farmers in Scottsville, Ky. They said the produce was clearly labeled as non-organic when it was sold to customers.
Another Middle Tennessee produce vendor filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture about the practice.
The newspaper reports the case highlights the rising demand for produce that is organic and locally grown.
One of the Mennonite farmers, Paul Weaver, said the crops sold to Delvin Farms weren't easy to grow using organic practices. He says many Mennonite farmers use organic practices, but aren't certified.
"We try not to use more pesticides than we need to, but we do use some," Weaver said.
He said Delvin Farms bought mostly acorn squash, spaghetti squash and butternut squash, in addition to sweet corn, melons and cantaloupes, he said.
"There's a few crops we hardly need pesticides — onions, strawberries, hot peppers, peas," Weaver said. "The Delvins, they're growing stuff too. They're growing some of the same stuff (organically) they're coming up here and buying."
Cindy Delvin, who founded the business with her husband, Hank Delvin, 41 years ago said customers that purchased the conventional produce were mostly out-of-state warehouses that did not want to pay the extra cost of organic food. She said the non-organic produce accounted for a small fraction of their business.
She said the conventionally grown produce was never sold in farmer's markets or in its community Supported Agriculture program.
"Our clear marketing that our food is 100 percent organic is true to our philosophy, and our customers receive 100 percent organic food," she said. "In years past, the warehouses and stores such as the Turnip Truck that we marketed non-organic produce to were fully aware that it was not organic. They simply wanted a quality product for their customer base, and we provided that off of our farm, supplementing with small amounts from the Mennonite source."
Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.