The Path to Organic Certification

Farmer spotlight: Maggie Bowling from Old Homeplace Farm...

In her first decade of farming, Maggie Bowling has been committed to the continual learning involved in running a business. She studies, she keeps notes and records, she does research and runs experiments, and she keeps trying to improve – little by little, every year. And although the work can be challenging, the learning process helps her to push through...“One of the things I like about my lifestyle is that it forces me to learn and problem solve on a daily basis.”

Maggie raises vegetables with her husband Will who runs a pastured livestock operation on Old Homeplace Farm in Clay County. They operate a meat and vegetable CSA, sell products through an online farm store, and provide food and flowers to other local retailers. Raised on her parents’ organic farm, Maggie’s farming practices align easily with the standards of the USDA National Organic Program (NOP), but she had never certified her own operation. For help with the process, she reached out to the OAK Transition Trainer program for expert assistance with the recordkeeping, regulations, and requirements.

She will be the first to tell you that organic certification is no small thing. When farmers display the USDA symbol, it denotes they are in compliance with over 100 pages of federal regulations. It also means they undergo annual inspections by a third party to verify they meet all of these requirements. When farmers certify, they must keep careful records of seeds, soil amendments they use (all must be certified organic or on the OMRI approved list), practices they use to combat weeds and pests organically, and systems that build soil health and protect natural resources.

You might ask what does this all mean for the consumer? If you are curious about certified organic, here is a quick overview of what to expect when you buy products with this label.

  • Food grown without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.

  • Food that does contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

  • Food that has been grown with natural fertilizers.

  • Food that is produced with organic ingredients.

  • Food that helps conserve biological diversity and build soil health

Maggie has worked hard to meet all of these requirements, and her vegetable operation is in active transition to Organic Certification. While her own farming practices are in alignment with the NOP regulations, she had to wait a minimum 36-month transition period prior to certifying due to a previous land owner’s treatment of the land with prohibited substances. This waiting period has also allowed her to learn more about the recordkeeping, establish pollinator habitat, improve her pest, weed, and disease prevention strategies, and grow her farming community.

Learn more about Maggie and Will’s farm on their OAK Find-A-Farm directory profile here. Find out more about Old Homeplace Farm’s organic practices by watching the recording of their May 2021 OAK farmer field day here.

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