In 2005, Pam Schreiber moved her three young children to Westerlo, New York and set out to build her own diversified agricultural business. A former cardiorespiratory therapist and nutritionist who was overwhelmed and frustrated by the long-term impacts of smoking and poor diets on her patients, Schreiber turned her life’s work to disease prevention.
Eight Mile Creek Farm now produces more than 50 different kinds of certified organic fruits and vegetables, along with certified organic meat (beef, pork, and heritage chicken), cage-free certified organic eggs, and certified organic milk. This rich diversity contributes to the resilience of the farm ecosystem—when one crop has a bad year, another yields an unusually productive harvest.
Schreiber works hard to maintain the farm’s self-sustainability. She relies on few outside inputs—grows her own hay, starts plants from seeds, and rotates animals on pasture. She avoids manufactured fertilizer inputs, opting instead to use manure to supplement soils. She abstains from the use of pesticides; a robust diversity of plants and animals more closely mimics a natural ecosystem, guarding against pests.
Processes can be inconvenient, overhead expensive, and profit margins lean. Organic practices cannot be rushed. For example, conventional chicken is raised in 41 days, while an organic one takes three to four months to reach maturity.
Some nights Schreiber lies awake, wondering if she has made the right decision for her family’s security and future. Yet she is a true advocate of the USDA organic label.
“It’s so important for all farms to pursue certification if they are calling their products organic. This will ensure we have a strong united voice to help uphold the integrity of the organic standards, especially when policy is challenged by the larger corporations that might like to weaken the requirements.
The organic label gives my farm and my poultry products value by helping my customers have confidence that what they are buying is clean food: good for their health and protective of the environment.”