When White Violet Center for Eco-Justice was established, the first priority was to allow land owned by the Sisters of Providence to heal. After more than 40 years of chemically-intensive agriculture and landscape management practices, the sisters chose to return to organic methods.

Throughout their history, the sisters maintained a variety of chemical-free fruit and vegetable crops until the early 1950’s, when routine use of agricultural chemicals became commonplace.

In 1995, White Violet Center for Eco-Justice returned the sisters’ 343 acres of cropland to organic production and also created a five-acre garden and orchard dedicated to organic fruit and vegetables. At this time, Facilities Management also began eliminating pesticides and herbicides across the 1,200 acre property.

The decision to turn to organic production has made a positive environmental impact. Conventional agricultural chemicals can leave residues on crops that humans and animals may ingest in trace amounts. Most of these chemical escape into the air when sprayed or get washed into ditches and waterways where they upset the balance of nitrogen in aquatic systems. This can cause abnormalities in sensitive species like fish and frogs, and can lead to an overgrowth of undesirable species such as algae.

The combination of heavy machinery and chemical use can damage a variety of soil organisms, compromising the soil food web—a system of living and dying organisms that generates fertility and organic matter. When this occurs, the soil lacks the necessary structure and nutrition to keep plants thriving, and so they become dependent on fertilizers.

Abandoning agricultural chemicals is one way of preserving farmland, but White Violet Center for Eco-Justice practices other measures as well. Crop rotation is a common method of preserving fertility in the land.  In addition use of cover crops, like clover, add nitrogen and help rebuild the soil.  Organic matter is added to the fields, in the form of horse and alpaca manures, to increase fertility.

White Violet Center for Eco-Justice works with Indiana Certified Organic to undergo the organic certification process annually. First, the farm must document that organic seed was used and that all inputs are chemical-free.

Next, an inspector comes to visit the cropland and is briefed on measures taken to prevent chemical contamination. If the land is approved as chemical-free, a fee is paid and organic certification continues for another year. Certified organic crops bring in a premium price.

For more information, contact White Violet Center for Eco-Justice Director Sister Maureen Freeman, CSJ, at wvc@spsmw.org or 812-535-2930.