[permaculture] Fwd: [SANET-MG] Organic Certification for Indigenous Cooperative Members: buffers and rotation

Lawrence London lfljvenaura at gmail.com
Wed Feb 22 10:41:00 EST 2017

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Michael Snow <msnow417 at gmail.com>
Date: Wed, Feb 22, 2017 at 9:07 AM
Subject: [SANET-MG] Organic Certification for Indigenous Cooperative
Members: buffers and rotation
To: sanet-mg at googlegroups.com

Good morning all,

Two of us are on a Farmer to Farmer program in Central America and have
been asked discuss organic certification with a cooperative of indigenous
farmers and the extension technicians that work with them.  Now that we're
here and learning about their circumstances, we see there may be challenges
to their certification.  Can any of you offer advice?  Of course we and
they need to reach out to an actual certifying agency, we are just trying
to give a picture of what this endeavor may look like for them or what
questions they may need to address.
The two of us are both diversified organic vegetable farmers in the USA,
who work at small (hand sscale) and relatively-small (30-acre) scale and
sell direct to our own markets.

We’re looking for response to three specific questions around
certification, buffers and rotation.

About them:

   - They grow several vegetables for export.  The cooperative is exploring
   organic cert to meet buyer demand.
   - This area is in the 70s and 80s most of the year, doesn’t get much
   cooler than 50, there’s a rainy season and a dry season.  Each village has
   an area where they farm, each farmer has a plot or several plots of roughly
   1/4 acre.  No one does more than an acre or so total.  Lots of rectangular
   plots all right up against each other, little or no buffer.  Where there is
   irrigation, overhead or drip, the water all comes from a shared source.
   - The cooperative provides credit to buy inputs that they recommend
   (they get the inputs from an ag company that sells it).  The cooperative
   then aggregates and sells wholesale to a buyer that tells them what they
   want them to grow.  The cooperative technicians recommend what and how
   often to spray, usually every 7 days (wet season) or 15 days (dry season).
   - They grow mostly: green beans, carrots, peas and sometimes zucchini.
   They are assigned crops by the cooperative, based on demand from the buyer.
   - Rotation and cropping: Depending on if they have irrigation, they may
   grow as many as four crops in a year: peas, carrots, beans, peas, then
   start over.  In another village they might be asked to grow beans only,
   sometimes with a corn crop between for village consumption.
   - The are chemical intensive.  They use fertilizer, regular sprays to
   deal with pests and disease.  Some of their plots where they spray
   regularly look really good - a 1/4 acre of crop grown intensively, few
   weeds, little if any disease.  These plots get satisfactory yields, but
   require more and more chemical to get them.  They have heavy pest pressure
   especially in the wet season but now in the dry season, too: white flies,
   thrips, nematodes, fungal and bacterial disease.  Neighbors all spray by
   hand, so little drift; in some villages the slopes are quite steep but
   plots still close together with a diversion for run-off.

We're trying to figure out what requirements they might be given for
certification, to give them a starting point for understanding what this
might mean for them:

   1. Certification: since each farmer owns their own plot, would they each
   need to be certified?  Could a group of them?  The whole cooperative?  If a
   group of them were certified, would they have to be all adjacent to each
      1. I assume, of course, the cooperative headquarters (where produce
      is aggregated and sometimes processed) will need to meet applicable
   2. Buffers: since each plot is 1/4 acre and are owned by the individual
   members of the coop, is it even possible to certify individual plots?  What
   minimum buffers might be required?
   3. Rotations: what requirements exactly?  The people grow four crops a
   year in order to survive.  It is uncomfortable to me to tell them they will
   have to grow fewer crops - it’s not clear that the economics will work
   right.  We are sharing strategies we use like undersowing/relay crop and
   reduced tillage schemes.  But could their crop mix even be certifiable -
   would a certifier require they expand their rotation?

Any thoughts?  Remarkably we have only a day or two to address.


Lawrence F. London, Jr.
lfljvenaura at gmail.com

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