North Country Organics (NCO) was started by Paul Sachs in Newbury, Vermont in a 150-year-old barn. Founded in 1983, the company was started with the concept that “any type of agriculture or horticulture can be productive, successful, and more profitable without compromising the earth’s delicate eco-system with harmful chemicals.” According to NCO’s website, Sachs had been an organic gardener for several years before starting North Country Organics.

Growing Magazine:
Fertilizer application can be a tricky topic to understand. How does North Country Organics assist customers?

Paul Sachs:
We’ve carefully put together a set of recommendations for a diverse list of crops that is printed on the back of every bag and appears on our website. However, we often have to make special recommendations, usually based on a soil test, to correct imbalances. We’ve put a great deal of time and effort into our online calculation pages so that people can interpret their own tests and we’ve added a large amount of educational information in our online technical articles.

Growing Magazine:
What is the scientific process that North Country Organics goes through to make organic fertilizer?

Sachs:
There’s a lot more to consider when creating an organic fertilizer than just nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N–P–K). The organic objective is to feed the soil as much or more than the plant because the soil is the plant’s digestive system. Paying attention to soil needs results in healthier, more nutritious plants. Soil organisms need carbon in various forms including but not limited to protein, carbohydrates, fats, waxes, cellulose, hemicelluloses, and other compounds. These materials contain the energy soil organisms need to proliferate. So, not only is the ratio of these carbon compounds important, but also the carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ratio. Too narrow or too wide can cause problems. There’s quite a bit of science that goes into it.

Growing Magazine:
Organics is a hot topic in today’s growing industry. How does North Country Organics help guide skeptical first-time customers to use organic products?

Sachs:
To be honest, we’ve stopped wasting our time and energy trying to convince skeptics about organic practices and it’s rare that any of them call to be persuaded anyway. First-time customers are generally convinced before they call and just want guidance which we’re more than happy to provide. Most people spend a fair amount of time on our website before calling and know in advance what they want or need. Sometimes, we’ll make alternative suggestions based on information they’ve given us. Many new customers just want to know where they can purchase our products.

Growing Magazine:
What do you think the future of organic products will be 5 to 10 years down the road?

Sachs:
I don’t think organics is a flash in the pan like pet rocks. Given the growth over the last four decades, it appears to be gaining popularity every year. People want to feel safer about the food that they eat or feed to their children. Grocery stores don’t carry organically grown products just to feel good about it…those products sell. My guess is that we’ll see more organic than non-organic products in stores 5 to 10 years from now.

Growing Magazine:
What are you doing to market your product(s) for national use?

Sachs:
This is a challenging task because most of our products are freight sensitive, i.e., the farther they need to be shipped, the more expensive they become. Natural fertilizer ingredients are not nearly as concentrated as their chemical cousins so often, more needs to be applied. Moreover, feeding soil organisms requires more material. Additionally, there’s very little in the organic tool box that’s soluble so creating a (freight insensitive) organic fertilizer that can be used in bioponics or drip irrigation is very challenging. We’re working on it.

Five Questions is a GrowingMagazine.com monthly series that discusses industry-related topics with the people who influence the industry.


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