Having a plan for how you want to manage your farm is not only a valuable business and management exercise – if you are or want to be a certified organic farmer, it is a necessity. Section 4 of The Canadian Organic Standards require every producer or processor to have an organic plan that outlines “the details of your transition, production, preparation and management practices”. Luckily, the organic certification bodies have made building an organic plan easy for you – they have designed their questionnaires to gather all of the information required by the COS. In addition to asking you detailed questions, they will also provide a list of supporting documentation required.
Get an overview of certified organic production including general principles, certification process, considerations and benefits, production and management implications, and more!
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Your Practices and Procedures
To apply for organic certification, you must create an Organic System Plan (OSP), which describes how your farming, handling and or processing practices meet organic standards. The OSP should clearly explain your operating plan, including information on crops, animals, harvests, sales, records, soil-building practices, pest management, health care, pasture, and any other practices related to organic production. Your organic plan must be updated every year to reflect changes in your management practices, any problems you may have had, and what you did to help solve those problems.
When the organic inspector arrives at your farm for the annual inspection, they will verify your organic plan through a combination of walking your fields and barns, looking at your equipment and storage facilities and generally confirming that you are protecting the organic integrity of your products from beginning to end. They will also spend some time at the kitchen table reviewing your records to ensure they are an accurate representation of what you are doing, and that it is possible to track each product from beginning to end.
Keeping good records is the foundation of an organic plan – and for many producers it is also the most daunting. The most important thing to remember is that you must be able to document that you do what you say you do. It can be as simple and basic as keeping a daily journal or calendar to write down exactly what you do each day – up to complicated spreadsheets that help you track things. It is crucial that you be able to track each crop from the seed that was used, to the field it was planted in, to the equipment that was used to harvest and truck it, through the storage facility to the end user. Your records will show that you did everything possible to protect the organic integrity of your crop at every stage that was within your control. If you are a livestock producer you will keep birth and feed records as well as tracking any treatments you may have used, either homeopathic or other. These records must be kept for at least 5 years.