Late last month we hosted an Organic Verification Officer for our annual audit. Each time we are inspected, we are reminded what Certified Organic means to us…
Community, Transparency and Integrity
Our audit took over four hours. She pored over our livestock health, grazing, feed, slaughter and sales records, reviewed maps of our farm and surrounding properties, and toured all our production, processing and storage areas. She also conducted a traceability audit, where we chose a particular piece of beef sold and traced that meat back through butchering and slaughter, through that cow’s life on the farm, her health records, all the way back to the day she was born, and even through her mother’s records before that.
This type of record-keeping is not necessarily exclusive to organic farmers. However, the accountability we have to our customers, our certifying body (North Okanagan Organic Association) and to other organic farmers we work with, is unique. Next time a farmer tells you they are ‘non-certified organic’, that they use organic or ‘beyond organic’ practices but aren’t certified, ask them why.
Some parts of organic production should be common sense: Don’t poison our food supply. Encourage life and diversity instead of death and monoculture. But there are many elements to the Canadian Organic Standard that we have learned along the way.
Ask if they test their livestock drinking water annually. Ask if they have signed agreements with their conventional neighbours to respect buffer areas to prevent contamination by prohibited substances. Ask if they request documentation from their suppliers proving that all inputs are certified organic and that the equipment used to harvest and transport those products was adequately cleaned. Ask how they monitor changes in their soil health as a result of their management practices.
Becoming certified organic is not for everyone, but the expense and effort of certification is not as great as some detractors make it out to be, and the value is tremendous. Together, from the ground up, organic farmers have built a community and a standard that our customers can understand and trust. Just as our customers choose to support our certified organic practices, we are in turn helping other organic farmers improve the land and environment when we buy their livestock, hay or grains.
That is what it means to be Certified Organic.