Organic Certification Supports And Protects Farmers And The Organic Movement
Part l. A Brief History Of Organic Certification
In the 1970s the supply of organically grown food was limited or largely unobtainable. Early organic farmers were often isolated and faced harassment and ridicule in their communities. Two of the greatest challenges at the time were a lack of organic production information, and different opinions on what the term “organic” should mean. “Organic” was used loosely; much like the word “natural” is used today.
Organic farmers and consumers quickly saw the necessity of developing consistent organic standards and a third-party certification process. Certification groups were started throughout the country, and farmers and consumers worked together to write standards defining organic. Criteria based on the premise that “organic farming will do no harm” were used in writing standards for soil, livestock, and human health. The impacts of conventional farming on biological diversity, birds and other wildlife, erosion, and the land itself, were critical considerations in these diverse discussions. By bringing growers and buyers together, commonality, consistency, and a fundamental organic certification system and methodology was created.
In the 1980s, many states passed organic laws, but a major challenge remained. Each certifying organization and state had its own standards, causing a lack of uniformity and reciprocity issues from certifier to certifier. A single national standard was crucial to prevent confusion in the marketplace and to protect against mislabeling or fraud. In 1989 the Organic Working Group, made up of twenty-five consumer, farmer, environmental, and animal protection organizations, began to work on federal organic standards. It took until 2002 and a huge amount of effort and consumer involvement to obtain federal organic standards.
Today’s Organic Market
Now it’s 2012 and organic food can be found in most mainstream markets. We have come a long way! The Organic Trade Association reports 2010 organic sales as 4% of total food sales, up from only 1.2% of food sales in 2000. Fruits and vegetables are the leading organic sector, representing nearly 12% of all U.S. fruit and vegetable sales. And these numbers include only certified organic farms. There are many more farmers growing with organic methods that have not obtained certification, and thus are not included in these statistics.
Organic is the future. It is our security. We know that to be sustainable an agricultural system must protect and preserve the soil and water and biological diversity and be based on renewable fertility.
OCIA Nebraska #1 Organic Farm Tours August 18th
Join Organic Crop Improvement Association organic farmers while they share their diversified farms with you. There will be ideas, knowledge and learning from one another about integrated crops and livestock systems, utilizing cover crop to extend livestock feed and increasing their farm’s biodiversity.
Begin the tour at 1:00 pm two miles north of the town of Abie, NE on the Larry Stanislav Farm. Stanislav has an extensive crop rotation with spring wheat, corn, soybeans and cover crops used to control weeds and increase fertility. Stanislav will discuss two University of Nebraska (UNL) on-farm research studies that he has cooperated on: a Nutrient Management Study, 3rd year crop rotation results and a flaming experiment for weed management and moisture conservation on corn. NRCS conservationist will review funding opportunities available through the Natural Resources Conservation Services for fencing, water systems, cover crops and seasonal high tunnels.
From 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm visit Mark Roh, Abie Vegetable People ¼ mile west of Abie. Mark Roh is a beginning organic market gardener, he will discuss his drip irrigation system, crop rotations, pest control, on-farm processing, storage facility and future greenhouse plans. Mark will share on what vegetables to grow for farmers markets and how to fence raccoons out of sweet corn.
End your day at Wagon Wheel Ostry Family Farm, 2281 Spur 12B – ½ mile north of Bruno, Nebraska. Starting at 4:00 pm Mike Ostry will tour his various field crops, cover crops and speak about his participation in the on-farm research flaming experiment with UNL. He will explain their large organic garden, on-farm livestock processing facility, pasture: poultry, ducks, turkeys, geese and hogs. This is a great opportunity to bring the kids and grandkids that are looking for summer job ideas. The Ostry’s have many direct marketing, money-making projects that kids can do on the farm. Families are welcomed; the meal is free and starts at 5:00 pm followed by Music from the Ostry Family.
Call Pat at (402) 584-3837 to reserve your meal, and for more information on the tour and organic production /certification call Kim at 402-620-2701.