The first week of March is always a hectic period here at Alden Hills. While most everyone else is starting to get the first hints of spring fever or intently following how their March Madness bracket is going to shape out, we at Alden Hills are finishing up our annual Organic certification paperwork. This yearly process usually involves lots of late nights and coffee (and I do mean A LOT of coffee) to get submitted before our deadline.
Organic certification can be as confusing a process for the farmer as it can be for the consumer. Unless you are dealing the Organics daily it can be murky on what exactly the certification is…certifying? So I’ve put down the crucial points of what achieving that certified Organic stamp actually means for a farm:
· Non-GMO. To be certified Organic you have to prove that every seed purchased came from a non-GMO source. So this means that farms they must save every receipt to show the inspector as proof.
· No Synthetic Chemicals. Organic certification does not allow any synthetics to be used. We manage the health of our soil so that we don’t need chemicals. For example; to prevent disease in our cattle we run them in fresh pastures daily so they are never in their own filth and we use cover crops to suppress pesky weeds.
· Humane treatment of our animals. Organic certification requires that we have a plan in writing that describes how we specifically raise our animals in a humane way (For example, all animals must have access to outdoors, must be handled in stress-free environments, and must be butchered in a humane way). When we get our annual inspection the inspector will verify that we are doing what we say we are.
· Organic Fees. When a farm is certified Organic they have to give a percentage of sales to their certifying agency. Since this fee is not a flat charge this is also one of the reasons that Organics are more expensive to buy.
· Lots of minutiae. Most of the paperwork involved with Organic certification is about correcting a myriad of details. (For example: When the USDA changes regulations, which is very often, we have to correct label formats, reporting procedures, etc accordingly). It also means that we have to physically record everything that we bring on to our farm (manure, bedding, wash room sanitizers, etc).
So why do we bother with certification? It certainly isn’t the easy thing! We believe that the best way to provide you with the cleanest food we can is by achieving Organic certification. Anyone can claim to be raising animals humanely or on non-GMO feeds but without verification it’s just that, a claim.
It’s important to us that you, our customer, can be assured that we truly are raising your food the best way possible. It’s that important to us.