Organic Certification at MIG
Our annual organic certification inspection was a few weeks ago and I'm excited to share more about details about this key part of our operation. We choose to obtain our organic certification through Oregon Tilth, which is one of many organizations that administers the NOP (National Organic Program, or the federal body of law that comprises organic certified on farms for the U.S). Tilth certifies both locally and internationally, is based in Corvallis, and in additional to offering the service of certification, is a fantastic educational and advocacy non-profit for all things related to sustainable agriculture.
We decided to seek certified organic status starting early in our farming journey, following the standards from the get-go, but officially received our certificate in 2010. Many factors played into this decision, but the main reason was to provide an identifiable, transparent, and rigorous set of guidelines for both customers seeking the highest quality healthy food, and to guide us in decision making for our production practices. After all these years, we feel our organic certification is as important as ever, plus it allows us to sell our produce to retailers who share rigorous standards, like Lifesource Natural Foods.
Oregon Tilth has an incredibly thorough set of guidelines that farmers must follow to get certified organic status. From the three year transition requirement from conventional management to organic (which includes a detailed 5 year land history for applicable fields), to the requirement for on-farm native vegetation, the standards are in-depth and cover a wide-ranging set of agricultural practices.
Each year the annual organic inspection is different but equally exhaustive, and the lead up takes many hours of preparation. I gather and organize records including seed packets, harvest records, soil and fertilizer receipts, seed lists, fertilizer applications, etc. Kelly, Kyle, Leana, and I have been fine-tuning our record keeping over the past few years in particular, which makes the inspection goes even smoother. In fact, this year was by far the smoothest inspection to date, with no oversights in our production practices or missing records. The office portion is followed up by a field walk where we look at crops plus any new areas that are being added or taken away from organic
certification. Now that Chris is growing his mint test plots in the Brown Island fields, we had to formally relinquish from our formal Organic Systems Plan. This year we added two small plots that are in their second of the three year transition process and used to be poplar stool beds managed by my father Rob. Some of your fall crops will be labelled certified transitional, which means they are managed under the same organic guidelines but are not yet out of the three year transition phase.
The new buzz in sustainable agriculture circles is regenerative agriculture.
While I'm not yet familiar enough with the movement to accurately distinguish the practices from traditional organics, I know they share a focus on soil microbiology as the key to plant health. We continued to be inspired by all of the progressive methodologies that keep evolving to help us grow more nutrient dense food, keep soil healthy, and thus help us humans lead happier, healthier lives. Now that the certification work is done for the season, I will give extra thanks upon receiving our organic certificate, which represents a long-term effort by farmers, scientists, activists, and eaters to keep our food systems healthy and viable for future generations.