We had our annual Organic Certification Inspection today. We take pride in raising quality crops, and enjoy the working relationships that we have with our buyers. The certification process helps our buyers know that what we are selling them has been raised according to the standards that have been set.
In May, we mailed in our 100+ page application and documentation forms. It contained field history maps, cropping plans for the next 3-5 years for each field, lot numbers for each variety of seed, and our bin numbers along with what crop will be in each bin this fall. Then we send in a check which basically pays them to come and inspect us. We have about twice as much paperwork at home, compared to what we mail in. Some of the paperwork comes naturally after farming organically since 1998. Some things still have to be located before the inspection, which is where it can get a little nerve wracking. Even though the annual inspection is once a summer, we usually get dropped in on 2 or 3 other times during the cropping season.
The inspector comes to the farm, and goes through all of our paperwork. Some of the things he checks are:
- If you planted all non-GMO seeds that were free from seed treatments and fungicides
- If you sourced organically raised seeds
- What steps you take to protect the organic crop from GMO cross pollination and spray drift; buffers between your crops and neighboring fields (including planting dates)
- If your equipment has been used on any conventional crops or ground, and the steps taken to clean it for organic crops
- Anything that you put on your fields was approved for organics by the certifying agency
- Check soil tests to ensure you are building soil quality
- Checking your 3-5 year cropping plans for each field
- Checking your methods of weed control, and looking to see if you have things under control
- How the crops are handled after harvest. Was it placed in clean bins, were the buffer strips harvested separately and not co-mingled with organic crops
- What cover crops are being used
- Checking to see if each load of grain leaving the farm was accompanied by a clean truck affidavit signed by the owner (us) and the driver
- Checking to see if the final fees based on percent of gross organic sales has been paid to the certifying agency
- Reviewing daily log of field activities
- Reviewing each field history sheet, which includes any products applied to that field
- Walking crop fields
There are other things they look for, but these are some of the bigger items.
Our family does not feel that organic farming is the only way to farm. We are offering one of the choices that consumers are asking for. We realize that organic farming is not for everyone, and we do not think less of our conventional neighbors. We enjoy what we do, especially after a successful inspection!
The kitchen table, papers ready for inspection: