DEAR NEW FARM:
How do I find an organic certifier in my area (South Carolina)?
I have organically raised animals and vegetables.
You can begin by contacting our friends at the Carolina Farm
Stewardship Association (CFSA) www.carolinafarmstewards.org.
(For would-be organic farmers elsewhere, local and regional
sustainable farming groups exist across the United States
to help you get started.) There you will find tremendous links
for producers, including information on how to pick a certifier.
CFSA will also be able to match you up with seasoned organic
farmers in your region, an invaluable mentoring tool when
it comes to understanding all the nuances of compliance with
the federal Organic Rule. Contact executive director Tony
Kleese at firstname.lastname@example.org;
(919) 542-2402. Tony is also involved with training farmers
interested in becoming certified, and he is eager to help.
The funny thing about the certification process is that certifiers
aren’t necessarily regionally based. For instance, Oregon
Tilth, one of the oldest and most respected certifying agents
in the country, operates across the United States and even
internationally. You can find a list of all USDA-accredited
certifying agents on the National Organic Program website
But it is limiting in that it only provides you with home-base
information and does not offer any details on coverage area
or any other specifics about services. And all certifiers
are not alike (though they are supposed to apply the standards
and requirements set forth in the federal Organic Rule equally).
What varies widely is their field of expertise, the fees they
charge, their level of service, and their commitment to organics.
That’s why The New Farm has partnered up with the Organic
Farming Research Foundation to create a certifier directory
that offers such practical and useful detail. We’ve
queried all the certifiers and are in the process of organizing
and editing the data so it will be easy to use. Look for a
roll-out of this exciting new project later this summer.
If you are really feeling the need to get up to speed, you
might consider hiring an organic consultant (ask your local
support group—in your case, CFSA—for
a recommendation). And if you are a gluten for punishment,
you can try wading through the rule yourself, published in
the Federal Register (www.ams.usda.gov/nop/NOP/standards.html).
(It might not help you get certified, but it might make you
Good luck, Joanne. Please keep us apprised of your progress.
us with comments, suggestions and questions.