I plan to grow organic coastal hay. The acreage I plan to
use was not used for six years, until last summer when we
cut and baled 16 acres. How long must I wait before 100-percent
certification (no chemicals or pesticides have been used)?
Thanks for the email and the question on getting your land
certified. There are several things you should keep in mind
as you go through this process. The first step will be for
you to select a certifying organization. You can browse The
New Farm's Guide to US Organic Certifiers to find a certifer
right for you or visit the USDA's National Organic Program
This certifying organization will be your link to the national
program and the guidelines laid out in it.
Generally speaking, your land must be free from any prohibited
materials or practices for a time period of 36 months. That
means from the last time any prohibited materials were applied
to the land until the time you can get it certified must be
at least 36 months. You indicate that it has been six years
since anything at all was done to the land. Your certifier
will most likely ask you to sign an affidavit to that effect
to document this fact. If you were not the landowner over
that period, the previous landowner can attest to this fact
in his own signed and sworn affidavit.
My suggestion is that you look up the USDA's web site on
the organic rule and familiarize yourself with the standards
that pertain to your operation. Even though the document is
quite lengthy, the portions that will pertain directly to
your operation will be less than 15 pages. Select an appropriate
certifier and begin the process of working out your Organic
System Plan. And in no time at all, you’ll be certified
and moving on.