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Wilson Farm Receives Organic Certification

Posted: February 20, 2014

Wilson College has received U.S. Department of Agriculture organic certification for produce and herbs grown on the college farm, a major step for the college and its sustainability program.

Wilson sought the certification, which recognizes natural growing practices already in use on the farm, to allow the college to pursue partnerships with the USDA, state agricultural and environmental agencies and other organizations, including research and funding opportunities.

“This is a big deal,” said Christine Mayer, program director of Wilson’s Fulton Center for Sustainable Living, which includes Fulton Farm. “It’ll give our students tremendous opportunities for research with the USDA, and that’s really what we’re after.”

The designation continues to build upon Wilson’s mission to practice and promote environmental sustainability.

“This is wonderful news for Wilson College and adds weight to our sustainability programs,” said President Barbara K. Mistick. “Credit goes to all of our folks who persevered through the lengthy application process to make this happen.”

The 50-acre Fulton Farm, seven acres of which is cultivated, grows produce without synthetic or man-made chemicals. Produce grown on the farm is used in a popular community-supported agriculture subscription program that serves as a CSA model for area farmers. It is also used in the college dining hall and sold at the North Square Farmers Market in Chambersburg.

Wilson’s farm has used sustainable farming practices since the FCSL was founded in 1994. “We have had certified naturally grown status for at least seven years,” Mayer said, referring to a peer-to-peer designation given to farms that refrain from using synthetic chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers.

The next step was to become USDA-certified organic, which requires extensive record-keeping and inspections, among other things.

“The products we’re allowed to use have to be organically approved,” said Mayer. “We have to source our seeds organically and any nursery or plant material has to be organic. The USDA also looks at land use practices. Compost and soil amendments have to be approved.”

The process of obtaining organic certification started in fall 2012 with an independent study project initiated by Amanda Kegerreis, who graduated in 2013, said Mayer, who worked with Kegerreis and Fulton Farmer Sarah Bay to satisfy the USDA’s requests for information and verification, as well as inspections.

“The USDA is very strict about who may and may not use (the certified organic) term,” said Mayer. “Unless you’re certified by them, you are not allowed to use that designation on your produce.”

The Fulton Center for Sustainable Living, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2014, includes the farm and the Robyn Van En Center, which houses a national database of community-supported agriculture programs.

During 2013, several projects were completed at Fulton Farm. A pole barn for equipment storage was constructed and a produce wash station was built, providing a covered space where produce grown on the farm can be cleaned and packed.

A related solar project is in process, thanks to funding from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation. Solar panels capable of generating six kilowatts of electricity have been installed on the roof of the new pole barn. After the array receives state and power company approvals, it will be used to power a solar irrigation pumping system throughout the seven-acre farm, as well as an electric tractor.

More information about Wilson’s FCSL can be found at www.wilson.edu/fcsl.

Last Updated: February 20, 2014