Many small-scale farmers are choosing not to certify their farms as organic. And it’s not going unnoticed. The Canadian General Standards Board of Canada wanted to know why and what could be done differently. So, a Working Group on Small-Scale Organic Certification (WGSSOC) was formed to focus on Small-Scale Organic Certification.
This working group is made up of organic consultants and farmers. All were familiar with some of the reasons farmers were choosing not to certify (while still being committed to organic agriculture in their production management) but they wanted to know more. A survey was created and sent out to farmers across Canada.
The group received nearly 200 responses from certified and non-certified organic farms. A common concern was “one size can’t fit all” and that a certification process designed for international and national trade does not really work well for diversified small farms focused on local markets. Other concerns were the cost, the amount of paperwork and the responsiveness of certifying bodies to requests.
Based on those survey results, the WGSSOC members explored possible systems that could suit small-scale (or direct-market) farmers better.
These options included a “virtual” process where the inspector would do a “virtual tour” of the farm rather than an in-person inspection, a group certification system, a peer certification process, a simplified certification and audit system by some or all of the existing certifying bodies, and a self declaration system. After considering the different options, the WGSSOC will be developing the concepts of “Peer Certification” and “Self Declaration” further.
One benefit to the national organic industry to include these small-scale farmers is that they are the “face” of the organic industry. These farmers, who meet their customers every week at the farmers’ market, CSA drop-off, restaurant back-door, and through opening their barn doors with farm tours and on-farm events, represent Canada Organic’s image and brand. As any marketer knows, this added-value should not be taken for granted.
Shannon Jones, a member of the WGSSOC said, “As organic farmers, large and small, we need to work together to strengthen our industry in order for our voices to be heard at a national level and to create the change we want to see in the world.”
The WGSSOC has started a blog to facilitate the discussion. To read more and leave comments, visit here.
For more information, please contact:
Convener, Working Group on Small Scale Organic Certification
86016 Creek Line, RR # 1