Organic Certification (BF 106)

What, How and Why (or Why Not)

Organic certification of your farm requires strict adherence to a set of farm management practices determined at the federal level and monitored by a 3rd-party certification agency. It’s beyond the scope of this course to teach you how to produce your crops organically, but you will get an intimate glimpse into how organic certification works, what common pitfalls exist, and who the players are.

”This course helped me decide that certification IS for me. And now I know exactly what I’m getting into so the process doesn’t feel so overwhelming.” –farmer, NY

Target Audience

People who are: Committed to starting a farm in the next two years but haven’t yet begun production; Already farming for 1 to 3 years; Farming 3-10 years. Ideally for farmers located in the Northeastern United States, for commonality in production practices, though farmers outside the region are welcome to participate as well.

Learning Objectives

Course participants after completion of this course will:

  • Have a better understanding of the NOP program & its requirements
  • Possess the skills to understand and properly fill out applicable organic certification application paperwork
  • Understand how to navigate the certification process and continuing requirements
  • Understand available resources and how to utilize them


The bulk of the course happens on your own time, with discussions, readings, and assignments in MOODLE, our virtual classroom. To add to the experience, webinars will be woven into the online interface of the course to allow you to meet on a weekly basis to learn from outside presenters, ask questions, and collaborate with other participants and the instructor to address your farm issues in real time. If you miss one, they are always recorded and posted for later viewing. Access details will be posted in MOODLE once you have registered and logged in.

Qualifying for Loans

If you are considering applying for a low-interest beginning farmer loan though the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), completing this course may help you qualify, if you meet other eligibility requirements. For farmers in NY who have already applied for an FSA loan and been told they need borrower training credit, all of our courses are pre-approved to provide you with this credit, if you complete all course requirements. For more information, visit the FSA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Loans website.


Lisa Engelbert and Sherry Hastings from the Northeast Organic Farming Association of NY LLC (the certification branch of NOFA), and Laura Biasillo, Ag Economic Development Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County


Course will next be offered in Jan or Feb. of 2015. Specific dates TBD.

Course Outline

Week 1. Navigating the program site, introduction to course, NOP standards, history of organic standards movement.

Week 2. Crop Certification: Fruits & Vegetables: Eligible crops, Seed & Compost Sources; Introduction of paperwork; Understanding guidelines. Webinar presenter will either be Niechelle Wade of Sunny Hill Farm or Stephanie Roberts of Hemlock Creek CSA/Skoloff Valley Organic Farm

Week 3. Crop Certification (cont’d): Field Crops: Harvesting & Handling; Marketing; Sprays; Equipment; Notification letters. Webinar presenter will be Klaas Martens of Lakeview Organic Grain

Week 4. Livestock Certification: Outdoor Access & Pasture Rules; Farm Plan; Slaughter; Marketing. Webinar presenter will be Karma Glos of Kingbird Farm

Week 5. On-farm Processing: Dairy; Fruit/Veg; Meats; Value-Added. Webinar presenter will be Jenny Clifford, an inspector for NOFA NY LLC as well as a certified organic producer.

Cost and Registration

Fee for this course is $200. It will next be offered in Winter 2015. When registration is open, you’ll find a working link here to register and pay.

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