Q&A

DEAR NEW FARM:

I purchase "green" wild rice from Native Americans on three Indian Reservations in Northern Minnesota. All rice is harvested from wild, natural stands in area lakes and rivers on the reservations. I process, package and sell it to a variety of consumers. To sell it as an organic product, what do I need to do beyond following the organic labeling requirements and registering as a handler? Thank you!

Dan Evans
Minnesota

 

DEAR DAN:

Although it may seem logical to assume that any crop harvested in the wild should qualify as organic, in practice "wild" areas are highly variable and may be subject to contamination. Roadsides can be contaminated with heavy metals and soot from vehicle exhaust, for instance. Many railroad embankments and power line right-of-ways are sprayed with herbicides periodically. As a result, wildcrafted crops must meet organic regulations if they are to be sold as organic. The "Wild crop harvesting practice standard" (§205.207) is among the shortest sections in the federal organic rule (view the full rule here). It includes two key requirements. Crops must be harvested:

• “from a designated area that has had no prohibited substance. . . applied to it for a period of 3 years immediately preceding the harvest of the wild crop," and
• "in a manner that ensures that such harvesting or gathering will not be destructive to the environment and will sustain the growth and production of the wild crop."

Organic crops harvested in the wild can thus come from land that is not itself technically certified, although it must meet the same basic requirements as certified acreage. Certifiers may ask for harvest locations, field management histories, descriptions of buffer zones and/or affidavits of adjoining land use. They'll want to know about harvesting methods and crop-handling practices.

Also be sure to check out our Certifier Directory for an organic certifier in your area. Thanks for using NewFarm.org.

NF

 

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