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
(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 at www.ams.usda.gov/nop/CertifyingAgents/Accredited.html.
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
(It might not help you get certified, but it might make you certifiable.)
Good luck, Joanne. Please keep us apprised of your progress.
us with comments, suggestions and questions.