ASK Jeff: The Rodale Institute’s farm manager, Jeff Moyer, answers your hardcore farming questions

Any advice for getting my farm and greenhouse certified?

Posted March 15, 2007

What Jeff brings to the table

Jeff Moyer, who’s been the farm manager here at the 333-acre Rodale Institute research farm for more than a quarter of a century, receives lots of mail from farmers just like you asking for advice. Jeff’s hands-in-the-dirt experience over the past 26 years has run the gamut from refining the farm's cover cropping and crop rotation systems (including managing 270 acres in a rotation of corn, small grains, hay, and edible soy beans for a Japanese market) to overseeing The Rodale Institue Farming Systems Trial®, the world’s longest running side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional agriculture. We thought it would be fun and informative to share some of these farmer-to-farmer exchanges, and Jeff’s practical wisdom, with our readers … and we’ll be doing it on a regular basis.

Got a question of your own? Click here to send it to Jeff.

Dear Jeff,

I would like to get my farm certified and am interested in the process. I am also starting a greenhouse, and it will also be organic. I have gardened here for 14 years using organic methods (1acre garden, 1 acre sweet corn).

Thank you for any help you can give.
Jim Reed


Dear Jim,

I'll try to give you a quick set of steps to get you started, but keep in mind it is difficult to address all the issues in one short email.

To get started I suggest you contact PCO (Pennsylvania Certified Organic) or one of any of the other 53 certifying agencies operating across the nation to get information (see New Farm Certifiers Directory. Anyone of them will send you an information packet (generally there is a fee for this). This information will include, among other things, their fee structure, individual forms for certification, a list of any educational opportunities they may sponsor, etc.

The second step I suggest is to get the name or names of any certified farmers in your area and talk to them about their experience of the process. That information combined with a review of the USDA's Organic Rule should get you on your way.

While the process may seem daunting at first glance, once you get started on the paperwork, you'll find it flows smoothly and the information you need to gather will help you think through your operation in a very logical way.

Our greenhouse operation has been organic for the past 60 years. Our recently built units have always been run organically. If you need any help along the way with getting that part of your operation up and running, I'll try to help out as best I can.

Good luck,