[Market-farming] sorta OT - update on our organic certification process (long)

KAKerby at aol.com KAKerby at aol.com
Sat May 12 22:51:59 EDT 2012

I'm sitting here feeling a little foolish for sending this email, but I  
have precious few other "audiences" to tell it to, so <lucky you> I'm  posting 
it here.
As some of you will recall, we made the decision to go for organic  
certification earlier this year.  That decision put into motion more  changes here, 
and at our rental ground, than I could possibly put into a single  email.  
One of the biggies was that we learned our landlord farmer has  thought 
about it for years, but figured he had some fatal flaws that prevented  him from 
applying to the program.  Turns out they weren't fatal flaws at  all, but 
fairly typical of farms that have been managed conventionally and are  now 
considering organic certification.  He is enthusiastically supporting  our 
application for our rented 14 acres, and he'll watch to see how that  goes.  
But he may end up certifying his entire place - 80 acres, if he  likes what he 
sees of this initial effort.  Which would put the total  certified acres at 
just about 100, all because we got a bee in our bonnet to get  certified.
We churned through all the application paperwork over a span of nearly 2  
months.  Ugh.  We're going for all three categories - Crops, Ruminants  and 
Non-Ruminants.  Our application packet was 64 pages long, with very  little 
redundancy between the three categories (and yours truly didn't even  write 
any missives; just clipped answers).  I guess even after we sent the  packet 
off, I didn't really consider it "real" because there was always the  chance 
that the reviewer would look through it, snort with derision, and send it  
back stamped "No Chance In Heck Of Ever Being Certified".  So I anxiously  
awaited the reviewer's comments, and that letter stating whether our 
paperwork  was in order, needed some work, or was flatly denied.
While waiting, I had some changes to our overall plan that I figured the  
reviewer would need to know about. So I emailed the general office yesterday 
and  said I wasn't sure who our reviewer was, but please forward these 
updates.   I got back an email only about 30 minutes later, saying "hi, I'm your 
reviewer,  I got your updates, and I just finished your formal application 
letter.   Want to go over everything now?"  Gulp.  I emailed "sure", and she  
said she'd forward a PDF of the formal letter to me "for my  
consideration."  She warned me "not to take the questions personally, but  ours was a 
fairly complex application and there were bound to be questions that  came up."  
Great.  So I got the PDF, but was afraid to open it for  awhile.  Finally 
worked up the nerve (over another cup of my favorite tea),  and was 
pleasantly surprised to find that most of the questions or requests for  
clarification were really rather small.  A few items had me a tad worried,  but most 
were easy.  I emailed her back with the few issues that I was most  concerned 
about, and she responded "give me a call. I can answer those in 10  minutes 
on the phone, while it would take half an hour to write it all  out."  Dang, 
now I'm going to talk to her in person.  Worked up the  nerve to call her, 
and we had a whiz-bang slam-dunk conversation, knocking down  one topic or 
question after another, bang-bang-bang.  Got off the phone  with a few 
go-do's, but again nothing major.  And then it hit me.   We're done with the 
paperwork portion.  The next stop?   Inspection.  At which point I started to 
think "oh, crap, I've got 14,201  things to do before then........"
So I spent most of the rest of yesterday bouncing between Cloud 9 and  
"OMIGOD the inspection is coming up!  Augh!"  While the application  didn't feel 
"real" to me at first, now it's real enough.  On the one hand,  they like 
what they've seen enough to warrant the inspection.  On the other  hand, dang 
now I have to go out and do all those things I said I was going to do  this 
year.  And in a way that meets a whole new higher caliber.  So  I'm still 
vacillating between Cloud 9 and "OMYGOD", and probably driving my  husband 
crazy in the process.  We have already decided that we need to get  him a 
Tshirt that says "I'm married to an organic zealot!"  But at this  point, I'm 
starting to dare to think that we might be on our way to really truly  getting 
that certification, which would pave the way not only for us but for the  
larger farm that we've been teaming up with the last few years.  Scary  
stuff.  Exciting, but scary.
Thanks for listening.  I just really didn't have anyone else to  
Kathryn Kerby
Snohomish, WA
Ruminations - essays on the farming life at  frogchorusfarm.com/weblog.html
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