6 Steps to Getting Your Farm Organic Certified
Organic certification is currently the “gold standard” in food production when it comes to assuring consumers that the farm products they are purchasing were grown and processed using methods healthy for humans and the environment.
The organic foods market in the U.S. was worth $55.1 billion in 2019, a healthy 5% over 2018 sales and the Covid pandemic accelerated organic food sales even higher. Consumers are looking for healthy foods and while there are many other “food labels” in the retail marketplace, “organic” is by far the most familiar one.
Not surprisingly, many farm owners wonder whether what it will take to certify their farm as organic. Farms with more than $5,000 in gross sales annually cannot use the term “organic” when marketing their products without certification under the USDA National Organic Program rules.
If you are thinking about certifying your farm as organic, here are six steps to move you through the process seamlessly:
1) Talk to Other Organic Certified Farms in Your Community
Reach out to your farming community about organic certification before you commit.
Your fellow farmers can be your best resource for the reality of organic certification, helping you decide if organic certification is enough of a benefit to your operation to pursue it. Ask questions like:
Are most farms already certified and you need to be certified to compete for sales?
Or is nobody certified, meaning certification could be a feather in your cap (or not required) to capture market share?
What buying avenues will open up to you that might not be available without organic certification?
Which certifying agents should you use (or avoid)?
A quick conversation asking your fellow farmers why they are (or aren’t) organic certified can give you better tools to make your decision and set you up for certifying success.
2) Contact an Organic Certifying Agent.
Once you understand what organic certification will mean to you from your fellow farmers, your next step to organic certification is finding a certifying agent who will conduct your inspections.
Organic certifying agents are also a great resource to help you prepare for certification. They can tell you if your land qualifies for organic certification immediately or if you need to go through some steps to get there (and what those steps will entail).