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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 4-week 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.” –Holly G, Camden, 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 National Organic Program (NOP) & 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 and ask questions 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.


Lisa Engelbert 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


Registration for this course is currently closed; this course will not be offered in the 2015-2016 season. Dates of next offering to be determined.

Course Outline

Week 1. Navigating the program site, introduction to course, National Organic Program (NOP) standards, history of organic standards movement, certification basics.

Week 2. Crop Certification: Fruits & Vegetables: Eligible crops, Seed & Compost Sources; Introduction of paperwork; Understanding guidelines. Webinar presenter will be farmer Dan Kent of Kent Family Farms.

Week 3. Crop Certification (cont’d): Field Crops: Harvesting & Handling; Marketing; Equipment; Notification letters. Webinar presenter will be Mike and Gayle Thorpe from Thorpe’s Organic Family Farm.

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

Cost and Registration

Fee for this course is $150.