NOFA Organic Certification Journey
As stewards of the land we are responsible for the quality of food we put in the community. At Taliaferro Farms we have the advantage of seeing organic up close and personal. In this post we'll go through how farming practices are held accountable by organic farming standards.
One of my favorite food writers Michael Pollan once said,
“Yet the organic label itself—like every other such label in the supermarket—is really just an imperfect substitute for direct observation of how a food is produced, a concession to the reality that most people in an industrial society haven’t the time or the inclination to follow their food back to the farm, a farm which today is apt to be, on average, fifteen hundred miles away.”
NOFA, or the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York was created in 1982. NOFA serves as a platform for farmers to submit a detailed outline of how they plan to grow crops to experts in the organic food industry. We provide details on soil content, input materials (foliar insecticides down to the brand of bleach we sanitize with), seeds purchased and their sources and allow on-site inspection to ensure full transparency of our growing practices. We believe it's important for consumers to understand the organic standards and why they matter.
Organic by definition means everything within a process is related or derived from living matter. Organic farming methods require food production without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, genetically modified seeds or other artificial agents.
Organic certification is a process that enables food and other agricultural products to be represented, labeled and marketed as organic. Generally, any business directly involved in food production or processing can become certified, including seed suppliers, farmers, food processors, retailers, and restaurants. In 2002, the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) implemented federal standards for organic products. Organic standards address such factors as soil quality, pest and weed control, use of input materials, and humane treatment of livestock. Meeting these NOP standards is the core of the organic certification process and is required for a producer to use the word “organic” or the USDA Organic seal on food, feed, or fiber products. New York State is consistently a national leader in organic production, ranking 3rd in the nation for number of certified organic farms.
We have been working diligently to complete our application by the early deadline on Friday. When Pete expressed his desire for the farm to be certified again we agreed and are learning a great deal in this intensive process. Luckily, we were able to borrow his most recent application which gave great insight on how and what to submit.
The application asks the person or entity applying to write about their growing philosophy or vision and why they are choosing to abide by the organic standards.
Pete wrote, "I'm a 59 year old first generation farmer. I've worked in the industry all my working life, some 45 years. I made the change from conventional to organic farmer inspired by an older mentor. I've been farming organically 19 years now. I made the change because I care. I care about my mother earth, my family and my community. To grow safe, wholesome, nutrient dense food while being a steward of the land is something that I'm proud of. I'm looking forward to passing on my knowledge to the next generation. "
Erin is our farm manager this year. She has poured countless hours mapping out the season and this is just the paperwork at the beginning. Like Pete, we share a similar message to pass forward on our application:
“I believe in upholding the organic standard practices because I believe it holds everyone accountable; the farmer, the consumer, and the organic certifier. The growing practices affiliated with organic certification are carefully considered to protect and maintain healthy soil and protect our climate and our planet. I am from the midwest where GMO corn and soy are prevalent and spread to all surrounding land and water sources. I've seen the devastation this has caused on farmers and their families' quality of life. I believe the organic standard is just that, a standard which should be adopted by the farmers wishing to instill change in the growing industry. Healthy soil is the foundation of nutrient-dense, life-giving food. We can't have one without the other. I am following in many of my mentors’ footsteps as I apply for organic certification for the first time and hope to instill positive change and inspire future generations of growers.”
If you have questions regarding organic growing or want to learn more, visit nofany.org!
We'll be in the ground soon,