Organic practices are particularly important in urban environments, where limited land often requires intensive use and chemical inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides can contribute to soil contamination and water system pollution. Additionally, organic crops can demand a higher market price, important for farmers aiming to maximize profits from small parcels of land.
Regardless of if you use organic practices, if you have farm sales of more than $5,000 per year you cannot legally sell your products as organic unless your farm has been officially certified.
If you sell less than $5,000 per year of product and would like to use the word “organic” in your marketing, you must adhere to organic practices even though there is no certification process required. To learn more about this, download the PDF of Small Scale Organics from www.kerrcenter.com/publications/small-scale-organics.pdf.
You can find the list of all certifying agencies by going to the USDA’s National Organic Program website at www.ams.usda.gov/NationalOrganicProgram. You can use any agency listed. The two located in New York are:
- NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC (https://www.nofany.org/)
840 Upper Front Street, Binghamton, NY 13905
(607) 724-9815, firstname.lastname@example.org
Scope: Crop, Livestock, Handling
- Natural Foods Certifiers (NFC) (http://nfccertification.com/)
119 A South Main Street, Spring Valley, NY 10977
(888) 422-4632, email@example.com
Scope: Crop, Livestock, Wild Crop, Handling
General Overview of Organic Regulations
Organic regulations are complex and ever-changing, which is why it is important to work with your certifying agency on everything that you do to assure compliance.
In general, you cannot use synthetic pesticides, antibiotics, or petroleum-based fertilizers. To certify a field as organic it must not have had pesticides or petroleum fertilizers applied for the past three years. To certify animals as organic, there are various transition requirements depending upon the animal species: dairy, beef, pork, poultry, et cetera.
Great attention is paid to nurturing the soil by the use of composts, cover crops, rock minerals and natural fertilizers. Plant disease and pests are controlled through the use of crop rotations, resistant varieties, cultivation, biological and botanical pest control. Animal health is maintained with wholesome food, adequate shelter, access to the outdoors, and preventive health plans.
Documentation of field maps, adjoining fields, complaints, crop inputs used, yields, sales, feeds purchased, medications used, and equipment-cleaning logs must be kept to maintain your certification.
Alternatives to Organic Certification
When deciding whether or not to become a certified organic producer, it is important to consider cost of certification and to what extent it will increase the marketability of your product(s). You can also consider alternatives to certification, such as Farmers Pledge (http://www.nofany.org/farmers-pledge) or Certified Naturally Grown (http://www.naturallygrown.org/).