Will and I have been taking part in an 8 week class called the “Growing Farmers Training Program” with an organization called Community Crops in Lincoln. They developed this program as well as community gardens to promote local agriculture. The training program which gives new farmers, both young and old, the opportunity for land, equipment, market experience and of course education through workshops and hands-on experience. We encourage you to read about their program at www.communitycrops.org. If you know anyone in Lincoln, please share with them this CSA program. Lincoln has a variety of other successful CSA’s, such as Robinette Farms, (www.robinettefarms.com), who we toured today with our crops class. We have met many of these farmers through Community Crops and they will be great resources for us.
This weekend in our class a representative from OneCert, an organic inspector, came to talk to us about the organic certification process. We thought it would be a good idea to explain a bit about the process and clear up some of the confusion about it.
In order to make sure that farms follow the national organic standards, the word ‘organic’ is regulated by the USDA. The word organic is protected under law so that it doesn’t become diluted. This ensures consumers that when they see a “USDA ORGANIC” label, they can be sure that they can trust the farm and its practices. For example, the word ‘natural’ means nothing anymore; a manufacturer can use ‘natural’ to describe their product without any consideration for the meaning because there isn’t a standard or rules that apply to it.
The process, for a farm like us, involves developing an organic farm plan documenting all the inputs e.g. seeds, fertilizer, as well as ensuring the overall the farm processes are up to the Organic standards. A certifier reviews this farm plan then decides whether or not this farm can become certified. If so, an inspector from the certifier comes to the farm to check whether the farm is following the practices of the farm plan. Then, after the inspection there is another review process. If all went well and the inspector doesn’t find anything non-compliant with the organic standards, then the farm becomes certified. Though if the certifier deems the farm non-compliant they can still become certified organic if changes are made in compliance with the standards. This certification must be renewed annually, including an inspection, to ensure the farm is updated with current Organic standards.
The certification process itself can take anywhere from 1-3 years depending on the farm’s situation. As stated in our brochure, we are not certified organic since this is our first year, but we will be following the required practices and regulations this year in order to complete certification in the fall. We are fortunate in that our farm has been pasture and untreated for at least the past ten years. If our land had been previously farmed conventionally or treated in anyway, we would have to wait three years because of the use of non-compliant materials such as round-up or synthetic fertilizers.
We are waiting for the application to arrive and can’t wait to start writing up our farm plan proposal. We will keep you posted on the application process.