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How To Go Organic:

How To Go Organic:

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How To Go Organic:

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  2. Organic Certification: the basics • The term “Organic” has been federally regulated since 2002 • USDA-National Organic Program (NOP) • The misuse of the “organic” label/term is illegal and subject to penalty • Organic is defined in the rules as “a production system that is managed…to respond to site specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.”

  3. Organic Certification: the basics Growers are certified by a USDA accredited 3rd party organic certification agency Growers wishing to become certified must follow the NOP rules and regulations for 3 yrs prior to certification & thereafter Certification must be renewed annually

  4. Organic Certification: the basics, cont. • Organic growers grossing <$5000/yr can opt out of the certification process • must still follow the rules (subject to penalty)! • May limit marketing opportunities or reduce market premium • organic and conventional crops can be grown on the same farm but measures must be taken to minimize risk for co-mingling

  5. Certification Costs • Many growers say the cost of certification deters them from becoming certified • Cost share program - contact your state Dept of Ag • NRCS organic program offers cost share • • contact your state NRCS to find more info

  6. FINDING A CERTIFIER • Ask local growers who they certify with • Look at the list of accredited agencies at NOP site, • New Farm organic certification site • Enter search criteria • compare 2 organizations characteristics on cost, crops, etc • Thing to look for: certifier location and in which states they certify; crops certified; types of operation certified (crops, livestock, processor, handler)


  8. The Certification Process After selecting a certifier, an application package from that organization must be submitted The application package is first reviewed to make sure it is completed, and that the applicant is using allowed practices. An on-farm inspection is conducted where the farm fields, harvesting areas, bins, storage, etc is thoroughly reviewed The package and inspection report are looked at in the complete, final review, to determine approval

  9. What’s in the Application Package? • Documents often found online at certifier website • Organic System Plan (OSP) – a complete description of your operation • Practices & procedures for nutrient management, pest management, harvest; conservation plans, irrigation etc • Monitoring practices & procedures • Farm maps & record keeping system • List of inputs, labels and how product is used • Steps to prevent contamination • Sales records

  10. Organic System Plan Excerpt:

  11. Meshing Production Methods with Organic Regulations • No synthetic substances, except those on National List • No natural substances prohibited on the National List • Seed • 1st choice organic seed; • 2nd choice conventional seed, untreated or treated with allowable substances • Must document when organic seed is not available in your variety of choice. • Annual seedlings & planting stock • 1st choice organically grown • Must document when not available and get approval to use conventional

  12. Meshing Production Methods with Organic Regulations, cont. Rotation plan must include a cover crop; maintain or improve organic matter, address pest & nutrient management issues Soil nutrition must maintain or enhance soil, through crop rotation, cover crop, plant or animal materials without contamination Other presentations in this website cover production methods in greater detail

  13. Meshing Production Methods with Organic Regulations, cont. • Raw manure should be applied 120 prior to harvest to crop where edible portion comes in contact with soil, or 90 prior to harvest when the edible portion does not have contact with soil • Food safety issues • Compost – ok to apply at any time if compost was made in accordance to NOP standards • C:N ratio of 15:1 to 60:1 • minimum of 131F for minimum of 3 days • pile/windrow must be turned so that that all materials reach temp • must be cured or aged

  14. Meshing Production Methods with Organic Regulations, cont. • Pest management issues, including insects, diseases, weeds should be addressed with • Crop rotation & nutrient management • Cultural practices including sanitation, variety selection, biological control, farmscaping, traps, etc • Inputs should be used as a last resort. • Approved substances can be found on the National List and OMRI ( • Check with your certifier if you have questions

  15. For More Information • USDA-NOP website • • Small Scale Organics: A Guide Book For the Non-certified Organic Grower • • NCAT-ATTRA • • Fundamentals of Organic Gardening and Farming • • Organic Research & Extension information •

  16. Acknowledgements This presentation address general organic production practices. It is to be to use in planning and conducting organic horticulture trainings. The presentation is part of project funded by a Southern SARE PDP titled “Building Organic Agriculture Extension Training Capacity in the Southeast” Project Collaborators • Elena Garcia, University of Arkansas CESHeather Friedrich, University of ArkansasObadiah Njue, University of Arkansas at Pine BluffJeanine Davis, North Carolina State UniversityGeoff Zehnder, Clemson UniversityCharles Mitchell, Auburn UniversityRufina Ward, Alabama A&M UniversityKen Ward, Alabama A&M UniversityKaren Wynne, Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network