Media Release - November 5, 2014

Many small-scale farmers are choosing not to certify their farms as
organic. And it’s not going unnoticed. The Canadian General Standards Board
of Canada wanted to know why and what could be done differently. So, a
working group was formed to focus on Small Scale Organic Certification.

This working group is made up of organic consultants and farmers. All were
familiar with some of the reasons farmers were choosing not to certify
(while still being committed to organic agriculture in their production
management) but they wanted to know more. A survey was created and sent out
to farmers across Canada.

They received nearly 200 responses from certified and non-certified organic
farms. A common concern was “one size can’t fit all” and that a
certification process designed for international and national trade doesn’t
really work well for diversified small farms focused on local markets.
Other concerns were the cost, the amount of paper work and the
responsiveness of certifying bodies to requests.

Based on those survey results, the working group members explored possible
systems that could suit small-scale (or direct-market) farmers better.

These options included a “virtual” process where the inspector would do a
“virtual tour” of the farm rather than an in-person inspection, a group
certification system, a peer certification process, a simplified
certification and audit system by some or all of the existing certifying
bodies, and a self declaration system. After considering the different
options, the Working Group will be developing the concepts of “Peer
Certification” and “Self Declaration” further.

One benefit to the national organic industry to include these small-scale
farmers is that they are the “face” of the organic industry. These farmers,
who meet their customers every week at the farmers’ market, CSA drop-off,
restaurant back-door, and through opening their barn doors with farm tours
and on-farm events, represent Canada Organic’s image and brand. As any
marketer knows, this added-value should not be taken for granted.

Shannon Jones, a member of the working group said “As organic farmers,
large and small, we need to work together to strengthen our industry in
order for our voices to be heard at a national level and to create the
change we want to see in the world”.

They have started a blog to facilitate the discussion
http://ofcfbc.wordpress.com/2014/10/30/to-certify-or-not-to-certify-the-perspective-of-small-scale-organic-farmers/