In order to simplify your own path towards organic certification I recommend you take the following steps.
The Northeast Organic Farming Association has a wealth of seminars, workshops and access to apprenticeships and internships. Each state’s website also has a variety of resources specific to organic certification.
Educate yourself about the USDA organic regulations 7 CFR 205 http://1.usa.gov/1CPgKxQ, which are administered by the National Organic Program (NOP) http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/nop. By utilizing ATTRA’s valuable organic guides, the regulations are broken down into common language. These summaries also enable you to assess whether you are following the standards. Shortcut hint: read the sections that start with the large question mark. If you cannot answer the questions then you don’t know the standard and will need to read the previous section.
Consult the Organic Materials Review Institute guides or website before you purchase or use any input to insure it is approved for organic use. Books are available from OMRI for a price, but looking up an input either by product name or ingredient is free and easy online. If a product says “approved with restrictions,” you should know what cultural practices are required before you resort to its use. www.omri.org/
Select the certifier that you want to use and download their forms, rate sheets and applications. If you live in a state that has comprehensive extension-type technical assistance, you may want to take advantage of those. Referrals from other farms can be helpful; you can also decide by comparing fees or the simplicity of each certifier’s forms. Each certifying agency must be accredited (authorized to operate) by the USDA NOP. Certifying agents may be for-profit, not-for-profit or even state government agencies. All certify to the same regulatory standard, yet interpretation of the standard and internal processes may still vary slightly from certifier to certifier. You can find a list of certifiers by state here. http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5100383
Take advantage of eOrganic’s articles, webinars and videos on your own time, in front of your fireplace. http://eorganic.info/ They also have “ask an expert” abilities on their site.
If you are a processor or a farm that wants to produce a value added certified organic product, like pesto for example, every state is different when it comes to licensing. You need to go to your local board of health to inquire what you need to do to get your product ready for sale. Think ahead about the ingredients and insure that you are sourcing organic ingredients while you are in your planning phase. Review the http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=407 and proceed with organic certification. NOFA/Mass is looking for one farm or business to offer free help in completing a handler’s OSP. Contact email@example.com.
Recordkeeping is an audit trail for an inspector to ascertain if you are following the NOP. It is also a way for you to measure the success of your business. There are many sites that supply templates to use on your farm, or you can make your own. If you don’t keep these types of records now, you will need to do so to be a certified organic producer.
As you can see there are lots of resources available, but they may not all be in one location; you will need to look in various places. I hope that your journey towards organic certification is smooth and simple. I found the process for my vegetable farm to be straightforward and the service of my certifier to be professional and fast. I also found that the cost to certify was less than $200 after I received my fee reimbursement. Organic operators can receive up to 75 percent of their certification costs paid, not to exceed $750 per certification scope. Submit through your state agency. http://1.usa.gov/15QUer9
Don’t let cost and paperwork prevent you from gaining organic certification; these myths have been over exaggerated. There are many resources out there to get you started and to help you along the way.