It’s no easy feat to have your farm become certified organic. There are nunneries steps that lead up to the process of certification. Before you start that process, you’d be wise to carefully adhere to each of the following pre-certification steps.
Should you make the transition?
There are numerous questions you should consider before you make the decision to get certified or go organic. You’ll want to think about the time it will take, your marketing skills (both present and potential), your finances, and organic labelling. Ask yourself if you’re confident that you’re ready to make the transition before you begin implementing big changes to your farm.
Have a read of the National Organic Program Final Rule
You’ll have to read this carefully as it will inform you of any basic requirements for organic production and processing, in addition to providing you with labelling and marketing information, as well as how to find certification standards, an organic certifying agent, and more.
Identify potential organic buyers and markets
You’ll want to look at marketing as soon as possible. When it comes to organic products, your market buyers and reach are very different than traditional markets and reach. Often, organic markets have issues with timing or geography that could redirect decisions on production and seasonal farming.
Further, as an organic farm, you’ll be required to have a thick skin for marketing. Selling organics to people, at a more expensive price tag, can be tricky if you aren’t invested. So you’ll need to learn how to educate people, not purely sell. Look for markets that are open-minded when it comes to organics. It may be wise for you to speak to an organic food distributor.
Involve yourself locally
There’s much to learn in the literature from the National Organic Program (NOP) but there’s even more from investing in local organic education. Local classes, workshops, and other organic producers are great resources that are available for you to take advantage of. Local resources provide books, fact sheets, and typically host such events as special classes or field days that cover what you need to know about in order to succeed in going organic in your area.
One of the basic requirements is that you must have organically managed your cropland for three years before certification. NOP states that certified organic crops need to have come from land free of prohibited substances for three years before the first organic harvest.
You’ll need to have documentation on the last time you applied these substances and you can’t treat seeds when in the transition period. You also can’t use genetically modified organisms (GMOs). You aren’t required to use certified organic seeds but you should begin to seek them out as finding them isn’t easy.
National Organic Program Standards require every farmer wanting organic certification to submit an initial Organic System Plan (OSP). This plan can take some time to complete so you should start it sooner rather than later.