General Question

livingchoice's avatar

How is a farm classified as Organic?

Asked by livingchoice (538 points ) January 4th, 2012

I want to get into growing organic fruits and vegetables for profit. What is involved in listing your produce as organic in Pennsylvania. Is there an institution/organization that gives you this classification? What’s the requirements, costs etc.?

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5 Answers

Seaofclouds's avatar

I’m not sure if you have to get certified or not, but if you do have to do it, I’ve heard of Pennsylvania Certified Organic before. I don’t know if there are other groups in PA that do this or not, this is just the one I’ve heard of. Their site discussing the steps to doing it and says that the cost is dependent upon your situation. Maybe you could contact them to get a better idea of the cost.

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prioritymail's avatar

Lots of people claim to grow organic but are not certified. Certification can be a lot of paperwork and tedium and expense that small farmers do not want to deal with. Over the years, requirements for USDA organic certification have been watered down such that there are new movements like “beyond organic” where people believe the certification really doesn’t meet the original intent and seek to rise above it. There are several different certifying bodies within the U.S., and even more abroad. You would want to do some research and look into what exactly certification means in each of these cases and what is involved in terms of documentation and fees.

If you choose to not certify and just adopt “organic” growing methods, a wise consumer will wonder why you claim your product is organic since a label is absent, and what you mean when you use the highly politicized word. If you choose to certify, informed people might see your USDA label and think well, what does that really mean these days. Either way, you will want to clearly state somewhere what “organic” means to you and why you chose to certify/not. Then again, there is also the customer base that sees the label and just assumes it came from Eden.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@livingchoice Check with the Rodale Institute. I believe it’s in PA.

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t know where you are in PA, but I suggest you contact the North Star Orchard to talk to them about their philosophy. They are very nice people and they are also very creative farmers. They grow some of the most interesting new varieties of apple I have ever tasted. They incorporate organic methods, but they don’t stop there in their efforts to create sustainable agriculture. If you email them, I’m sure they’d be happy to answer some questions.

Penn State put out a pamphlet about organic farming in PA that might help you. It outlines the steps you need to take to get certified as an organic farm. There is a hierarchy of organic labels in PA that is outlined here. The website for PAOrganic talks about what the PA organic trade association does. You might join even if you are not currently farming just to keep tabs on what is going on.

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