Organic Certification and Farming
"The U.S. Department of Agriculture has put in place a set of national standards that food and plants labeled "organic" must meet, whether it is grown in the United States or imported from other countries." From: The USDA National Organic Program (NOP)
Organic food and plants are produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Growers of plants (includes dairy and crop farms also) and handlers that have more than $5,000 in gross organic sales per year and are marketing their products as Organic, are required to become certified organic to be in compliance. People who sell or label a product "organic" when they know it does not meet USDA standards can be fined up to $10,000 for each violation.
Before a product can be labeled "organic," a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the plants and food are grown to make sure all the rules are being followed that are necessary to meet USDA organic standards. If you are considering growing and selling organic products, contact a certifying agency. In Massachusetts , Baystate Organic Certifiers can answer questions about the process. See contact information below.
Information on the USDA's National Organic Program
Baystate Organic Certifiers
683 River St. Winchendon , MA 01475
Contact: Don Franczyk, 978-297-4171
USDA National Organic Program accredited certifying agent that certifies operations in the Northeast United States. Though their primary operations are in Massachusetts and Connecticut , they will certify Growers, Livestock Producers, Processors or Handlers in the following Northeast states:
- Massachusetts , Connecticut , Rhode Island , New Hampshire , Maine , Vermont , New York and New Jersey
Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI)
The OMRI is a nonprofit organization that specializes in the review of pesticides and fertilizers for use in organic production, processing, and handling. OMRI provides guidance on the suitability of material inputs under the USDA National Organic Program standards . OMRI does not screen all possible products, only those submitted for review, so there may be other acceptable products not on its list. Suppliers can have products reviewed for a fee. Products that pass review can be labeled "OMRI listed". Some products on the list are regulated and subject to restrictions. In some cases, certain formulations of a product are permitted and others are not. Be sure to check with your certifying agency to be certain that the materials and practices you plan to use are approved.
More Information for Organic Farmers
University of Massachusetts Extension Program
This program includes a staff of faculty and professional staff that assist agricultural and horticultural professionals by providing educational programs and research-based information. For a staff directory see the Green Directory.
USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service
NRCS offers technical and financial assistance for conservation practices Programs and Practices for Organic Farming.
Northeast Organic Farming Association
NOFA is a nonprofit organization that has an affiliation of seven state chapters. Each chapter is a self-sustaining entity within its state.
Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE)
This program of USDA's Cooperative State, Research, Education and Extension Service provides grants and other support for producers to conduct their own trials and explorations into organic and sustainable production.
National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (NCAT) ATTRA Project
ATTRA is funded under a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture's Rural Business-Cooperative Service. It provides information and other technical assistance to farmers, ranchers, Extension agents, educators, and others involved in sustainable agriculture in the United States. The website contains detailed fact sheets on many topics related to organic production.
Rodale Institute New Farm
Rodale Institute is a nonprofit organization that covers everything of interest to organic farmers.
The Carrot Project
The Carrot Project is a nonprofit organization that provides loans to small Massachusetts farms for projects that improve their operations, increase their income, and/or address emergency needs. They are especially interested in organic operations.