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The goals of the project were to:

1. Expand the scope of the Organic Land Care (OLC) standard to include a food production section

2. Develop the model professional accreditation pro- cess for organic farmers.

The Organic Land Care Standard

As we drafted the food production section to the standard, it became clear that urban environments demanded further requirements in addition to the Canadian Organic Standards. A higher level of due diligence is necessary as urban environments can be highly polluted, and the historic use of a site is not always known.

It also became apparent that, due to food safety con- cerns, commercial food producers needed to be held to a higher standard of practice than home gardeners and ornamental landscapers, the original primary focus of the OLC standard.

We are grateful for the excellent input we received from our many reviewers, and we believe that the new standard presents a comprehensive guideline particu- larly for urban farmers. We also foresee the OLC stan- dards being of benefit to urban food policy makers.

The Proposed Accreditation Program SOUL pio- neered education-based professional organic certifica- tion in 2003 when it published the first Organic Land Care Standard. After a decade of experience, SOUL has adopted a 2-tiered certification process:

• Accreditation – granted after the completion of a 1-week (30 hours) course on the fundamentals of organic land care, and passing an exam.

• Certification – granted after additional compre- hensive education and 2 years experience. There is also a requirement for 6 continuing education hours per year.

The new organic farmer accreditation program will mirror the organic land care accreditation, but with a focus on food production. Successful individuals would be identified as Accredited Organic Farmers. The second certification tier could be developed if demand exists.

The Course

The accreditation course will deal with the underly- ing scientific concepts and ecological principles of organic practice, the connection between soil, plant,

Potential Benefits of Professional Accreditation

• Unifying the organic community by legitimiz- ing small organic farmers.

• Doing away with unverifiable and misleading production claims by giving small farmers a viable option to distinguish themselves.

• Increasing consumer awareness of the envi- ronmental benefits of organic farming prac- tices.

• Giving municipalities a regulatory framework they can incorporate into their food policy decisions.

• Accredited Organic Farmers are already fa- miliar with organic standards, and will find it easier to seek product certification once they become more established.

• Mandatory entry-level education will raise the knowledge level of new and small organic farmers, and increasing their chance of suc- cess.

• The size of the organic farming community will increase.

animal and human health in a farming context, and how all this relates to the Canada Organic Standards. The objective of the course is to communicate a holis- tic land management decision-making framework.

Although presented in the context of food produc- tion, it will not be a production course, and does not provide all the knowledge required to be a successful organic farmer. Rather it will be a perfect complement to structured farm-based apprenticeship programs teaching hands-on production skills.

The Exam

The exam will be similar to the current organic land care accreditation exam, but the questions will be cast in a farming context. The exam has 150 questions, and is completed within 3 hours. It can be taken online or as a paper-based exam.

The Certificate

A Certificate of Accreditation will be issued to those who pass both the course and the exam, stating: “This farmer has completed intensive training and passed an exam to demonstrate an understanding of the principles and practices of organic agriculture.” Since

BC Organic Grower, Volume 17, Number 1, Winter 2014 Page 13

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