New Outreach and Education Tools Available to Support to Organic Certification
March 8, 2016
Photo credit: USDA
New resources for transitioning organic producers are now available through the Agriculture Marketing Service’s National Organic Program (NOP). Through the Sound and Sensible initiative, NOP aims to makes organic certification more “accessible, affordable, and attainable” by helping transitioning farmers on a wide array of issues including record keeping and documentation, preventative practices, and much more.
Utilizing peer-developed projects, the Sound and Sensible initiative provides a collection of new educational and outreach materials including: videos, checklists, tip sheets, and how-to manuals to help farmers understand USDA organic standards, certification, and inspection. Several resources are available in both English and Spanish to ensure widespread access to information regarding organic transition.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) congratulates six of our member organizations, which have contributed vital resources to this important initiative. Their work, along with others, will be highlighted in an upcoming webinar on the initiative, to be hosted by USDA on Wednesday, March 16.
With organic production increasing throughout the country, outreach and education through the Sound and Sensible initiative can help transitioning producers find the information and support they need to incorporate organic practices, maintain records, and prepare for inspection. Several projects have chosen to target particular farming communities, such as the Amish, or Hispanic farmers and farmworkers, both through project design and language.
The projects highlighted in the Sound and Sensible initiative stand to play a seminal role in ensuring that organic certification remains accessible and affordable for all farmers, especially given the existing geographic, cultural, and market barriers facing most transitioning farmers. NSAC member projects and available resources are described below:
- Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) published a detailed 100-page Organic Transition Workbook and guide, as well as targeted community outreach materials to support Plain and Amish farmer communities. Outreach materials include a “Lessons Learned” guidebook, information on how to promote and conduct town hall meeting sessions, as well as record keeping templates for the particular organic farming activities required for certification.
- Tilth Producers of Washington created a series of short, engaging videos that address key challenges to organic transition. Available in both English and Spanish, the series offers advice on Preventative Practices, Record keeping, and Steps to Certification. Tilth Producers also developed a unique Farmer-to-Farmer Education Guide that describes how to utilize a “Farm Walk” for hands-on, experiential learning for newly certified organic farmers.
- Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont incorporated a peer-to-peer education method into its resources by focusing on mentorship and guidance for new organic farmers. The Organic Mentor Guidance Document describes the mentorship process and provides valuable tips for mentors. Additional product-oriented checklists for dairy, poultry, and crop producers ensure that the mentorship package remains applicable to all organic producers.
- The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT)’s project targets both Gulf and West States. Resources available to support Gulf States include a guide on how to conduct workshops on organic certification, as well as outreach and informational materials that were designed for their own workshop, such as a “Tips for Creating Organic Certification Workshops” tip sheet. NCAT also developed a number of tip sheets available in both English and Spanish for West States that directly address farming activities, including soil assessment, crop rotation, manure, and pest management.
- California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) published a handy one-page 10-step checklist for transitioning to organic in both English and Spanish. CCOF’s project also includes materials from their Sounds and Sensible Workshops, offering templates for other organizations to develop workshops within their own communities.
- Oregon Tilth’s project focuses on record keeping in organic production, offering four case studies on the essentials of maintaining good records. Each case study represents a farm with varying size and scope; for example, one study highlights Keeping Records for a Crop Audit, while another offers information on Documenting Ruminant Livestock Feed.
For more information, check out the Sound and Sensible resources available online, and participate in the upcoming webinar on March 16.
Conservation, Energy & Environment, Grants and Programs, Organic, Research, Education & Extension