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Organic Farmer Accreditation Project Professional Accreditation for a New Generation of Farmers


By Rochelle Eisen and Heide Hermary


processors in BC. There are also 2,767 “uncertified organic” producers, many of whom are small scale operators. A significant proportion of these small scale producers, particularly in urban environments, report that they cannot comply with the Canadian Organic Standards.


A


In some cases this is because they do not have reli- able long-term access to land and are unable to meet the land tenure requirements in the standards. Others are intimidated by the product certification process, or cannot justify the costs. So while these farmers may be working to the standards, they have no recognized means of distinguishing themselves in the market- place, nor do consumers have any assurance that these producers are meeting the standards.


Consequently the marketplace is flooded with a plethora of product claims—“uncertified organic,” “beyond organic,” “unsprayed,” “organical” (as oppo- site of chemical), “local” (with the unspoken impli- cation that it must obviously be organic)—as these farmers try to communicate their growing practices to customers. This leads to confusion in the marketplace and an ever-expanding chasm between those who are certified and those who are not. Something has to change.


In 2012 the COABC Small Scale Certification Research Project identified education-based farmer accreditation as an alternative approach to inspection- based product certification. This was not such a crazy idea—professional credentials are the norm in many service industries, including the landscape sector. Why not extend that model into organic farming?


The Project


In July 2013 the Society for Organic Urban Land Care (SOUL), in partnership with Island Organic Producers Association and Similkameen Okanagan Organic Producers Association, received funding from COABC’s Organic Sector Development Program to develop a model education-based organic farmer accreditation process parallel to SOUL’s accreditation for organic land care practitioners.


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ccording to the 2006 Census of Agriculture, there are more than 600 certified organic farmers and


Credit: Moss Dance


BC Organic Grower, Volume 17, Number 1, Winter 2014


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