Small Farm selling 'organic'

omgdMarch 11, 2008

Ok I have waded through the USDA website and have not found

the exact info I am looking for, I have heard that small scale farmers do not need to be "certified" to sell produce advertised as organic.

What are the rules on this? We have always grown everything

pesticide/fertilizer/chemical free but have never sold

anything before and are planning on selling at our farmers markets this year and was wondering if we were able to advertise our produce as organic? We only grow on a small scale and would never make enough profit to justify getting "certified" but when I accidently used the word "organic" on a local foods group when talking about our farm everyone jumped my case saying if I were not certified I could be fined, ect, ect.


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$5000.00 is the limit under that you do not need certification but all the other requirements apply such as keeping records and using only certified organic seeds , fertilizer etc.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 12:58PM
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kydaylilylady(z6 KY)

Why don't you just say your stuff is "Naturally Grown" ? If someone asks what that means then you can explain.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 2:08PM
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Naturally Grown is now one of the government's targets. =( It's the term I'm using for now.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 4:40PM
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I think I would not use the term "organic" for your produce even if you are under the $5000.00 limit. People are just going to assume you are certified if they see you using that word. I think it would just create confusion and mistrust with your customers.

"Naturally Grown" is dicey too because now there is "Certified Naturally Grown." You might want to look into that. It is a very do-able option for small acreage and afforable too.

For this first year, however, you might want to try, "pesticide free," or "sustainably grown." Put together a simple tri-fold brochure and tell people about your growing practices. Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 5:18PM
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Just a couple comments or clarifications. You can use the word Organic and this is the preffered way of selling if you are a small grower , but not Certified Organic .This is the governments way of making it possible for the small grower that follows organic standards to sell their products without so much red tape . By the way Certified Organic or not does not mean pesticide free simply that you would only use naturally occuring substances as a pesticide . Unfortunatelly many Organic growers use large amounts of plastics , row covers , irrigation supplies , and sprays and certainly are not growing sustainably . We use the term NO SPRAYS and succesfully market crops that have not been sprayed with anything and we won't even use fertilizer , or any other inputs for those crops . Not all crops can be grown that way but with carefull timing and observation many crops can grow with minmal or no inputs . The most difficult part is to get the consumer to accept a few holes in the leaves or blemishes on tomatoes etc. But surprisingly many will . Certified Organic is now owned mostly by large corporations like Coca-Cola .Walmart is hawking their share now ,so in other words it is corporate agribusiness . If small farmers are to survive we need the direct marketing from our own markets amd farmers markets to expand greatly and we need to educate the public . Unfortunatlly Certified Organic has backfired for smaller producers as most people just buy those items from the supermarket now . We all need to promote locally grown and the better methods we use to produce our crops not just Organic hhmmm better stop now .

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 7:57PM
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That $5000 is GROSS sales, not net sales so any farmer trying to do this as more than a hobby (i.e make actual profit) will not qualitfy.

i agree with toughboy that USDA organics is now in the hands of the big boys. if you are going to wholesale your produce or sell in a way that is not direct to the customer than you may need third party certification. But if you are selling direct to your customers you do need that third party cert because you can tell your own story.

I was certified organic for 8 years through OEFFA and when the USDA took over I dropped my certification like a hot potato and have never looked back. Now I market using the local foods/locavore angle and my sales are increasing better than when I was certified organic.

Even though I have not been certified organic since 2002 and made a huge effort to remove the term organic pertaining to the marketing of my produce and poultry on all label, brochures and websites the USDA sent me a threatening certified mail letter back in January telling me to cease and desist on using the term organic. They based this threat on 5 year old information (mainly a photo taken in 1999 of me and my husband at market with a sign saying Boulder Belt Organics which is our old farm name that is floating around the web. oh the anti USDA organic diatribe on my website that they did not seem to be amused about.) I have written them back and it seems things are okay with the USDA/NOP and Boulder Belt Eco-Farm.

I tell folks who ask if we farm organically that we do not legally and we are far above the weak USDA standards. And if they do not believe me they can come out to the farm and do their own inspection

    Bookmark   March 12, 2008 at 8:08AM
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bucks(9 Arizona)

what really irritates me about a lot of this is how much the farmers markets want for you just to put your stuff out. So really small guys selling out of the back of the trucks do not have a chance. I had one that wanted $65 up front for the season and 10% of sales! Another wanted $50 each time you came! Plus the county people come out to make sure that you all have sales licenses! they all want their money and then the buyers want you to give it away, but by gosh it had better been organic!

    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 10:47AM
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