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it is anticipated that farmers will be displaying the certificate in public, it will also provide the following definition of organic agriculture:

“Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain, or enhance ecological harmony. The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people.”

Accreditation is valid for one year, and must be renewed annually.

Accredited Organic Farmers are not restricted to organic practices, since farmers working as employ- ees may not have the power to make those decisions. However they must sign an affidavit that food sold in conjunction with the promotion of this accreditation has been produced according to the SOUL Organic Land Care Standard.

This accreditation does not entitle organic farmers to promote their products as “organic” or “certified organic” or to bear the SOUL logo, as this is not a product certification scheme. However, nothing prevents accredited organic farmers to also seek cer- tification for their products to the Canadian Organic Standards.

The Costs

Cost is often cited as a deterrent to product certifica- tion. This program has some significant up-front costs in the educational component, but the yearly mainte- nance cost is considerably lower.

• Course - $695.00 • Exam - $100.00 • Proctor - $50.00 to $80.00 • Accreditation Fee - $100.00 • Yearly Renewal - $100.00

However, one might argue that education is necessary in any case before embarking on a business venture, and the course could be seen as part a comprehen- sive educational program including apprenticeships, internships and other paths.

Potential Objections

The most common objection we encountered to our proposal was that this program might increase con- fusion in the marketplace. Are we now adding yet

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another label to the “uncertified organic”, “beyond organic”, “local” and “unsprayed” array of unverifi- able and misleading claims that already exist? The goal, of course, is to do away with those claims by giving producers who cannot satisfy the land tenure requirement of the Canadian Organic Standards and other small producers a viable option to legitimately participate in the organic agriculture community. Essentially we are inviting everyone in under the tent called Organic Standards. Sure, the tent is wider than before, but at least it is the same tent. Our hope is that education-based organic accreditation will stop the “we vs. they” mentality we are seeing.

Another objection we’ve heard is: “how are customers to know the difference between certified organic prod- ucts and products grown by an Accredited Organic Farmer?” Because they are dealing with an Accredited Organic Farmer, customers can now rest assured that there is no difference in the way the products are grown, except some may be labeled “organic” or “cer- tified organic” and others may be associated with an Accreditation certificate.

Of course, it will require some customer education, but let us not forget we are talking about small pro- ducers who are most likely selling directly to custom- ers, rather than through wholesale channels. There is nothing stopping larger producers from taking the pro- gram, but there are fewer options where such market- ing could be of benefit. This accreditation will actu- ally strengthen the organic label by doing away with unverifiable claims, and directly educating consumers in the ecological benefits of organic agriculture.

The third type of objection is around policing: how can we ensure that accredited organic farmers are actually doing what they are supposed to? Are they subject to regular inspections? This is where we see the greatest difference between inspection-based product certifica- tion and education-based professional accreditation/ certification. Each is a third party verification process, but professional credentials are granted to individuals based on knowledge and experience.

What we have learned over the last decade of cer- tifying land care professionals is that education is extremely powerful: we cannot un-see something once we have seen it. Again and again students have told us that their education has been life-changing, paradigm-shifting, and they are grateful for the tools to begin doing things differently. They already knew they should, they just didn’t know how. We are certain the same will be true for organic farmers.

A really important part of the program will be com- BC Organic Grower, Volume 17, Number 1, Winter 2014

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