We see the words “certified organic,” and, for some, it’s a total mystery. What does it mean to be certified? Who certifies that it’s organic? Lida Farm’s been certified organic for the last four years, so let me shed a little light.
Last week we had our organic inspection, which is a significant part to the certification process. In the spring I submit all planned inputs to our certification agency from any fertilizers to the brand of bleach we use to clean the sinks (it’s from Fleet Farm, for the record). All inputs have to meet standards set in the 90’s by USDA, so materials need to be non-synthetic. Also seeds need to be certified organic themselves, if available. Our certification agency, OCIA, reviews all these plans and the ingredients to all these inputs lets us know if they meet the USDA standards. Then, when the organic inspector comes, he wants to see evidence that these were the inputs we used and he’s on the lookout for any chemical use on farm.
Our inspector this year was a guy named Eli. After a quick walk around the farm to look at the fields, our packing shed where we store crops, and the buffers between us and conventional fields, we spend a few hours sitting at my kitchen table, looking over seed packets, field history records, and the documents I submitted in the spring. Eli has me do an audit of five different crops to see if I can explain the whole chain from seed to sale to a customer – we do five because last year we 228 different varieties. I show in my records when I planted the variety, where on the farm it was planted, which inputs were used on that field, and where and when I sold that crop variety. Four acres seems small until you start tracking every bed in this way…. Anyway, I think we passed.
In the very full box: