Oshala Farm has been certified organic since day one! Finding land with clean soil was fundamental to us to be assured we could produce the high-quality herbs we set out to grow. There are nuanced differences in the various organic certifications you see farms choosing to be accredited by and we would like to share those we are committed to and why.
The certifying agencies are the guardians of organic integrity. Certifiers apply the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) rules and guidelines to determine if a farm operation meets the criteria for organic certification based on inspections and reviewing a farm’s recordkeeping. Compliance can be interpreted by the certifier and it is the certifier that determines whether an operation meets the criteria for organic certification. We are certified by the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), choosing to work with our state’s USDA-accredited certifying agency. We had our annual inspection earlier this month!
According to the USDA, organic producers use natural processes and materials that contribute to soil health, crop and livestock nutrition, pest and weed management, and conservation of biological diversity. Yet, in recent years the USDA has buckled to the lobbying pressures of large-scale agricultural representatives to allow hydroponic farming systems to be labeled as USDA certified organic. Hydroponic growing systems do not depend on soil for their nutrition, they are dependent on liquid feeds. The USDA is also allowing industrial-scale confined animal feeding operations (CAFO) that do not provide livestock access to soil, to become certified organic.
In response to the watered-down organic standards, the farmers who rallied and organized to maintain the NOP’s organic rules requiring proper soil stewardship formed the Real Organic Project (ROP). Real Organic Project works with farms that are already USDA-certified organic to provide an add-on label to distinguish them in the marketplace and add back transparency. Real Organic Project brings integrity back to a system that eaters already know and trust. We had already been imposing our own organic-plus standards on our farming operation so choosing to become ROP certified by the farmer-led organization was obvious. Organic is about healthy soil—Oshala Farm is deeply committed to stewarding the land. We have been proudly Real Organic Project certified since 2019, the first year the certification was offered. We hope you’ll look for the ROP logo when making your consumer choices. They have a great newsletter and a podcast if you’d like to learn more.