To certify or not to certify? That is the question..
There is significant debate within the small-scale agriculture community and, even within the organic community, as to whether, certification is worth it. And among consumers, whether certified organic product actually better? What does organic certification actually mean for the producer, and how does that translate for the consumer?
Certified organic means a third party government approved agency has inspected the farm, the farm’s practices and verified the records of products used on the site. For many the decision to certify is not possible simply because of the cost. The initial certification takes at least five years of diligent record keeping – countless hours of work, interviews, plus the cost of inspections. And once certified, it costs around a thousand dollars annually to maintain certification. For small-scale producers this cost alone is not feasible.
Financial implications aside there are other reasons that smaller producers may not certify. The lengthy list of requirements may be impossible to meet for urban producers, such as the space requirements for buffer zones between neighbours and the growing space being sometimes larger than the actual growing space itself, or growers that use soil-less growing mediums, for example, hydroponics, are exempt because they're not producing in 'dirt'.
The majority of the benefits of organic practice – environmental, health etc. are enjoyed whether certified or not. Furthermore, certified organic production methods aren't perfect. There are organic standard approved pesticides that if improperly managed can have detrimental environmental effects: broadband pesticides whether from organic origin or not are not always safe for the ecosystem.
Certified organic means a lot more than just no pesticides and no elemental fertilizers, and certification doesn’t always mean better practices are used. So ask your farmer about their processes – let’s start this conversation so we can all make informed choices.
If you like the idea of talking to your farmer to know how your food is grown, join the YYC Growers' Harvest Box Program and have access to all 20 Farmers producing locally, right here in Calgary. Sign-Up!