Certified Organic, who here is C.O.?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by seedspreader, Sep 18, 2006.

  1. seedspreader

    seedspreader AFKA ZealYouthGuy

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    I was just wondering, I know we have a lot of new members, who here is C.O.?

    Did it open a much bigger market to you, and did you think it was a valuable thing to do for your situation?

    How about being certified "natural" (sort of an alternative from what I can see)?

    Any ways, let's talk about the organic thing here, do you stay below the radar enough that you don't have to certify yourself? I know there is a certain level of income for the organic tag that you don't have to be certified.
     
  2. Marilyn in CO

    Marilyn in CO Well-Known Member

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    We did CO wheat for a couple years and we did get over $6 a bu. one year, however the second year the wheat got hailed out. I don't do it anymore because I don't like the gov. guy I have to work with and it just isn't worth the hassle. The cost to certify went up too. We have done certified natural beef for 10 years now and are used to the hassles with that and it is worth it for us. Our records and paperwork are checked once a year as well as an on site inspection several times a year.
     

  3. MaineFarmMom

    MaineFarmMom Columnist, Feature Writer

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    You can use the word "organic" without being certified if you gross under $5000 a year in the produce that you sell.

    I don't use the word on my label because I don't have faith in the USDA's sub-standard program. It hasn't hurt my business. My customers come here to the farm. They know me. They know how I operate my market garden. Some of them have asked to walk through the field or pick a few tomatoes themselves. They're welcome here. People need to know where their food comes from and how it was grown. And how animals were treated, not only that they were fed organic food and weren't given antibiotics and hormones. They should be on pasture as they're meant to be, not on cement under bright lights in pens, nevering seeing the light of day.

    "Organic" just doesn't toe the line anymore. I'm not saying all certified growers are substandard. Many are not. What I am saying is that the USDA's program is watered down. Farmers can do much better. A lot of farmers have started certifiying as "natural" under much better guidelines.
     
  4. patarini

    patarini Well-Known Member

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    I have looked into it, not sure if its worth it
     
  5. katydidagain

    katydidagain Adventuress--Definition 2 Supporter

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    I don't sell yet but plan to; I won't change my 20+ year practice of using decomposed leaves and woodchips in addition to small amounts of composted kitchen wastes. I don't spray anything on my gardens save Sunlight Lemon Dishwashing detergent; the army of praying manti who live in my city plot take care of the bad guys (yes, sadly they off some of the good ones also..,). It seems Mother Nature and I have reached a compromise; she does the work and I get to be lazy. I plan to relocate; I might just pluck some of those nests to take with me.

    I would never consider myself a true organic gardener as long as my initial soil amendments come from unknown sources which they do and probably always will. Do I know what chemicals contacted my soil enriching ingredients? Not without adding a tremendous cost burden; who would buy a $5 tomato? I'm quite interested in the 'natural' label concept because, to the best of my abilities, that's what describes who I strive to be.
     
  6. anniew

    anniew keep it simple and honest Supporter

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    I market my CSA as not using synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. My chickens get to run over about a half or more acre from morning until night. I don't use the word organic, just fresh, local and not using "chemicals."
    I also looked into becoming organic and the paperwork wasn't my idea of fun.
    This season has been so bad for crops that I have "bought in" some local stuff and since I can't get organic things (other organic growers in this area have also been short on crops due to flooding) I give them conventional stuff and mark it as such so they can decide to use it or not. No one has refused it.
    I think they like local stuff, freshness and the "surprise" of seeing what is in the bag each week.
    Ann
     
  7. LagoVistaFarm

    LagoVistaFarm Well-Known Member

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    The further the product goes from the farm more important the organic label is. Is someone visits your farm you can show them what you do to build thier confidence. At a Farmers' Market it is even difficult to get people to listen to your pitch. The organic label has been sold pretty well and now has huge coporate backing. Even though you may know how fresh locally produced goods are better its tough to change public perceptions. We sold at one market where every farm in the county is now organic. The customers walk around like parrots asking: "are you organic?", "is this organic?"
     
  8. kesoaps

    kesoaps Well-Known Member

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    As Lago points out, it really depends on who your target market is. And if your sale are under $5000, you can call yourself organic as long as you practice organic standards. I've got a friend who's currently getting $4 dozen for her organic eggs...not certified, and people don't even ask what she feeds. They just say 'are they organic', she says 'yes', and they plunk the $$ on over. Blows me away every time I see it.

    But if you're planning on something bigger than the locals, then I'd say that certification may be worth it.
     
  9. The Paw

    The Paw Well-Known Member

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    I have a friend who is a certified organic inspector. Because there is limited organic acreage here, and many of those who do farm organic are small in size, it is only a part-time income at best. Many of the small operators decide to let the cost of inspection go after a couple bad years of weather.

    Of course at the same time, Walmart is getting into organics and there is now organic agri-business. This is good for economies of scale, but puts pressure on the integrity of the standards.

    In discussing this with various people, it is interesting to note how many people load the organic label with a lot of other ideological baggage - it has to be sustainable, non-corporate, local, etc. (some of which MaineFarmMom has mentioned). I'm not saying I don't believe in those other things, but all these assumptions make it difficult to change the food system.

    An interesting guy on organic and sustainable ag is John Ikerd. If you google his name you should find some of his speeches on-line and they are quite readable.
     
  10. Mountaineer

    Mountaineer Well-Known Member

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    Thankfully you can't do that in Canada. Seems the States are really bowing to pressure to allow just about anything? That's a real shame as the US sells us their "certified organic" products which we assume is up to our standards.
    We also do not allow BGH, yet are shipped American milk from BGH treated cows. :shrug:

    On the topic point- I began the certification process, but after 2 years did withdraw as there just isn't incentive for the small egg producer (in my case). I was definately loosing money as the feed, even bulk buys was more than I could get for eggs. Let alone labour involved.
    I still use CO feed for my poultry, but they are 'mainly' for my own consumption, something I'm happy to pay a little extra for.
     
  11. MorrisonCorner

    MorrisonCorner Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs

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    We are Certified Naturally Grown.. a program out of NY which relies pretty heavily on honesty to function but issues little signs and nice stickers for us to put on our wool.. and when I sell a lamb I slap one on the contract. Certified Naturally Grown simply means we don't do chemicals and other nasties, but it has no "legal" weight. It is, frankly, a marketing tool.

    But it works for us... we are "organic" (largely through laziness... or as Noel Perron once wrote "you can farm too well" if you apply too much technology to your land and overwhelm your own resources). But going "organic" is an upfront cash investment it would take too many years to recoup. This is a nice acknowledgement of our farming practices without that cash outlay.
     
  12. veggrower

    veggrower Well-Known Member

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    I was certified OG for the 1st 2 years of operation. 1989-91. I got certified, like many people just starting out, because I felt I neede those credentials to make me legitimate. I quickly learned to not tell prospective customers I was certified OG, because they immediately thought 3 things:

    1)overpriced

    2)crappy, inconsistent quality

    3)that I was a flake who spent most of my time getting high instead of taking care of bidness.

    I recommend to everyone that they focus on selling their products based on quality, taste, appearance, consistency, and customer service.

    Selling just based upon your productiion methods (OG) doesn't move much product without having the selling points I just listed.

    Reasons I dropped certification and have never gone back:

    1)Certifiers are basically just taxing organizations. They certify you, charge an inspection fee and then want a percentage of your GROSS SALES.

    2) My local certifier is Oregon Tilth which is a pioneer in certification and is well respected not only nationally but world wide. They would give me no advice if I called with a question, but would be glad to write me up and fine me if I did womething wrong. What was I getting for $450 inspection fee and a 1/2% tax on my gross sales? Nothing!

    3)being certified never added even one penny to my sales.

    Reason I would get recertified:

    I would only get recertified if I wanted to expand into a market that required my being certified.

    For example, there is a local chain of organic grocery stores with 7 current stores and plans for expansion. The do a huge amount of business and you can rarely find a parking spot in one of their lots. They have approached me several times, but I would have to get certified to do business with them.

    Or if I wanted to sell to a processor who uses the organic label, such as the increasingly popular small batch, gourmet organic baby food.

    other than that the best way to go is to build relationships with your customers so you both know each other and trust each other. My business is based on good realtionships with the chefs I sell to. They know I am going to show up when I say I am with exactly what they ordered with top wuality, consistent product that they can turn around and sell for a profit.
     
  13. phrogpharmer

    phrogpharmer Well-Known Member

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    Our composted fish manure has been certified as an organic product by the Idaho Dept of Agriculture. It is from poikilothermic animals so no human pathogens. It is weed seed free. It is high in phosphorus, nitrogen, and calcium. All the little snail shells in it really help loosen up heavy soil, and when composted correctly it is odor free.
    There are a lot more people coming by the farm asking for it. People still want it bagged and loaded in their trucks for free though.
    I've decided to become an "entrepmanure" and start charging for it now that it is certified organic "fish-it".

    Phrogpharmer
     
  14. MullersLaneFarm

    MullersLaneFarm Well-Known Member

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    Wouldn't that be phish-it, Phrog?????

    couldn't help myself!
     
  15. highlands

    highlands Walter Jeffries Supporter

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    We are not certified organic although we are truly organic, more so than the certification. The reason I don't do C.O. is the cost, the paper work and the government intrusion.

    We are Certified Naturally Grown which you can find out about here:

    http://naturallygrown.org/

    It is better than C.O.

    Cheers

    -Walter
    Sugar Mountain Farm
    in the mountains of Vermont
    http://SugarMtnFarm.com/blog/
    http://NoNAIS.org
     
  16. MullersLaneFarm

    MullersLaneFarm Well-Known Member

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    It's good to see that Certified Naturally Grown has lifted the inspection if there isn't another certified grower within an hour of your farm. This has kept many a midwest farm from being certified the past few years, at least in our area.

    We have many vendors at our Farmer's Market who will renew their interest in being certified naturally grown now.
     
  17. GrinningPlanet

    GrinningPlanet Grinning Planet Farm

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    Good posts everyone -- thanks
    I'm going to look into the organic certification in my state -- just so I know what they require and so I'll be able to converse with customers should they ask the inevitable question..."Are these organic?" I have no plans to go large-scale farming so it may make more sense to stay natural and chemical-free than to be certified organic.
    Donna
     
  18. ginsengsally

    ginsengsally Well-Known Member

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    We're certified organic & at this point, we plan on continuing to certify. It bugs the crap out of me when people say they won't certify because of the time involved with paperwork, etc. Keeping accurate records on the management of your fields is good business sense. If you want to run a successful business you should be keeping these records anyway. As for cost, it varies on who you certify with. Our certifier does not take a percentage of our gross sales like Oregon Tilth. I think it's very reasonable & a good investment for our farm. As far as naturally grown goes, I don't see how that is better. It is after all based on the USDA Organic Standards.

    I'm not certified organic for my customers who know me and know how I grow, I'm certified for those random customers that may just stop by & there first question is "Are you organic?" It's much easier and I make more sales by saying yes! than having to explain my growing practices when I have a line of 15 folks behind them.
     
  19. highlands

    highlands Walter Jeffries Supporter

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    Certified Naturally Grown is better because:

    1) CNG cost is trivial, even free. One has to make a lot of extra sales to justify the high cost of the USDA's extortion payments.

    2) CNG is non-governmental. By signing up with government programs you end up giving them permission to enter your property. With some programs they get to tell you how to run your farm and your life even outside the bounds of the program. That's wrong and I won't tolerate it.

    The USDA's goal is to help big business. I have never lost a sale due to not being certified organic. I just explain we are Certified Naturally Grown and how we do things - it is on our posters and web site. Easy as pie. It works and saves the cost and government interference.
     
  20. edcopp

    edcopp Well-Known Member

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    Some years back my neighbor, the next farm down the road, started an orchard. He had the only "certified organic" orchard in my county. I talked with him at length about this. When it came time to be recertified on the second year we talked some more. I asked him what the inspection amounted to. He said nothing at all. She just drove into the drive and honked the horn. He went out to talk with her and then he went inside to get a check for her. She did not even get out of the car. So what did you get for your fee, I asked? He said nothing, except that I am certified for another year.

    Sounds like a government job description to me. Nothing more. So I decidided that I really did not need this kind of service from the government. My standards far exceed the standards of the government anyway. I get plenty of intrusion without paying extra for it.