As of January 2020 we are no longer maintaining organic certification.  We still manage our field and production without chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  We are pursuing natural approach to farming without restriction of organic limitations. Here are a few changes we have made.
  • We are letting grazing animals (sheep, goats, etc) take care of our weeds and grass instead of using mowers and tractors to do most of weed control.
  • We are significantly reducing and eliminating imported organic fertilizers and mineral amendments which help increase yield.  We expect more natural and cleaner flavor.  We use animals and cover crops to contribute to nutrient cycling.  We also believe that diverse forest ecosystem as well as other tree crops help maintain overall ecological health and nutrient cycling.

Our 2019 harvests are no longer labeled as “Certified Organic” due to organic labeling rules.

We had maintained Organic certification until January 2020 under USDA NOP. Certified Organic under USDA National Organic Program (NOP) 100% Organic:
  • Premium Green Tea
  • Island Green Tea
  • Sweet Roast Green Tea

Why do we care about being Certified Organic?

USDA National Organic Program is a third party certification and involves annual inspection. Certified organic means the farm and the products are inspected by a third party. Organic certification requires
  • Field map clearly labeled and indicated to avoid potential contamination (it’s not okay to just put chemical fertilizers on your ornamentals 3 feet away from your crop)
  • Seed logs for organic seeds and planting stocks (to avoid GMO and fungicide treated seeds)
  • Organic input (fertilizers, amendments, pesticides, etc) application logs and purchase logs field activity logs
  • Auditing (to ensure that there are not more organic crops sold than produced, mysteriously it happens)
  • Fertility management (how to keep soil fertility)
  • Ecological diversity management (to maintain natural enemies, soil microbes and insects alive and well)

What are some of the organic rules that get in the way of our natural farming practices and some reasons to avoid certification.

Many people agree that many of the organic rules are not necessarily relevant to organic standard, such as use of animals for weed and pest control.

Animal use

One of our biggest challenge is weed control. Farm animals are great for keeping weeds down. Traditionally some tea gardens in China and Japan used goats to keep weeds down since they do not typically eat tea. Modern day practice replaced goats with roundup and chemicals to kill weeds. Organic rule does not allow animals or animal manure within 3 months of harvest for non-contact crop (e.g. oranges that fruits don’t touch animals) or 6 months for animal contact crop (e.g. lettuce, broccoli, carrots). Our organically managed farm animals cannot get in organic fields. Ironic, isn’t it? It is an indication that organic is not same as traditional farming practices.

Unfair use of word “organic” by non-organic growers

Many non-certified small farmers use the word organic to sell their produce and have no penalty. Typically, this cannot be effectively enforced.

Organic speaks of growing and processing practices but does not ensure quality.

“Organic” is a production and processing practice that involves chemical and other safety measure. It does not determine tea grades, flavor profile and other important qualities in tea. I repeatedly hear that people in the position of educating consumers say that their tea is better quality because it’s organic. Organic is one quality if you can taste the difference.