On May 26th, we had a visit from CCOF's organic certifier. For you non-farmer's market junkies, CCOF stands for California Certified Organic Farmers. It is, I believe, one of the oldest, and certainly the most well-known certifier of organic farms, packers and processing facilities. It also bills itself as a trade organization and an advocate to government on behalf or organic farmers and people who want to eat organic produce. The way certifying works is that first you visit your county agricultural office and get something called a pesticide report. This is generated by the parcel # of your land and shows any permits for pesticides or herbicides linked to the parcel. This costs about $75. When we did this back in August of last year, we knew what we were going to find: nothing. Our land has been in the family since 1974 and was used primarily for grazing of cows for the family dairy. Still, we had a stack of paper showing the pesticide use of all farms in our sector to take home to prove that our parcel was clean. This process got us registered with the State of California organic program, with another fee based on the gross sale of product. We also applied for the CA certified farmer permit, which allows a farmer to sell their produce direct to the public at California certified farmer's markets.
Next, it was time for some research on which certifying agency to use. But wait, you say, aren't you certified by the State which runs the NOP (National Organic Program)? Nope. Even though all organic farms are now regulated by the federal government, the government decided that they couldn't possibly inspect all the farms nor keep up on the paperwork. They just prefer to spend tax dollars "administering" a program to regulate an industry that was running smoothly and regulating itself through organic certifying agencies like CCOF, or QAI or Oregon Tilth. A farmer still must submit to a certifying agency. So now we get two pieces of paper saying we're organic now instead of one.
Am I boring anyone yet? Just wait, I may decide to describe the OSP in its mind numbing detail. That's the Organic System Plan. Every farmer must write a plan describing how they plan to deal with soil fertility, erosion, pests, parasites, wildlife, water use. You must demonstrate plans to ensure wildlife habitat and protection of riparian sites, if they exist on or near your farm. You must have a plan for how you will clean any equipment that comes from off the farm. In our case, we must hire out an olive harvester. This machine must be cleaned before it begins to harvest our organic olives. In addition, any storage of the olive oil must be documented- for example, even though our oil will be in sealed bottles, I must write a plan on how I will deal with pests and rodents at the "storage site," in an organic way of course.
We must plan ahead of time for all aspects of the control of the organic product: from bud to olive oil storage. An organic farmer today is drowning in paper. Our OSP, for a single crop, is more than 20 pages long and will get longer as time goes on and we learn more about how to produce this crop. Imagine the vegetable farms who have multiple crops, changing up every few months.
I'm sure glad we planted 13,500 + trees to make up for all the trees we'll kill with the paper we're going to use.
But hey, we're certified now!