We’ve started the process of becoming Organically certified by the USDA. I’m beginning to see why so few farms go the trouble of becoming certified. The process seems to be daunting.
We started by doing our due diligence and exploring the USDA’s organic program website. As many of you know I teach broadcast television and website design at the Colorado Media School located in Belmar. I mention this because if I had a student create a website as convoluted as the USDA’s, I’d make them do it again. The document regarding the rules of organic production makes a 56-page pdf file. Finding this material is like pulling teeth, slow and painful. I’ve spent hours at the computer surfing through the content trying to find a comprehensive list of steps to become an organic farm.
I did garner that the first real step was to contact the Colorado Department of Agriculture and talk to the individual that ran the Organic program here in our state. As an alternative, I learned that there were private companies that were certified to approve me and our operation. Good thing, as the representative from the Colorado Dept. of Agriculture informed me that they had stopped taking applications. Apparently, they did not have the manpower to process the applications that they already had. I was told that they might begin taking applications in the future, but they did not have the permission to do so yet.
I’ve heard through the grapevine that the cost of working with private companies was quite expensive and only made sense for large operations that could recoup the expenses easily because of the sheer volume of the operations. I was hoping that working with the State Department of Ag. would mean a reduction of those costs; no such luck.
Never daunted by things not working out the way I had envisioned, I contact company located in Lincoln Nebraska called OneCert. OneCert is one of those private businesses that has been approved by the USDA to certify productions as organic. I picked them as I am an alumni of the University of Nebraska and had spent six years of my life living in Lincoln.
I went to their site and filled out a very short form, and in five minutes had all the documents I needed to start the process. This is the difference in working with the government and a private enterprise. Although expensive, working with OneCert is not excessively so. I did learn from the Fed’s website that there was a program that would reimburse the cost of certification up to 75% but not to exceed $750. Based on what I’ve learned so far, this reimbursement will reduce our costs to a very manageable level. Good news indeed!
We have just begun filing the forms and preparing the material for OneCert, so I am not sure exactly what the future will hold and how difficult this might become. From what I’ve learned so far, I believe that farms that actually grow organically, have no real excuse not to go through the certification process.
We believe that everyone has the right to know how their food is produced. We believe in complete transparency regarding our growing practices and invite anyone to come and see our operation any time. We also believe that receiving the USDA certification and being allowed to use the Official Organic seal in our labeling and advertising will give our customers piece of mind, and a trust in our principals and practices.
We will continue to blog about the certification process as it occurs. It is our understanding that the certification can not be given until an inspector can visit our farm and examine the way we grow our produce and herbs. Unfortunately, this has to happen during the growing season, and that means the soonest we could expect approval would be next spring at the earliest. Stay tuned and visit our blog “The Urban Way” often for the latest updates.