Organic farms – to Certify or Not?

Organic certification seems to have recently become a very touchy topic amongst organic farmers across the world. There is an increasing sense that the certification standards applied by many commercial third-party certifications has been watered down too much from the original “sustainability oriented” ideals and practices of the 60s and 70s.

This has supposedly occurred to accommodate the interest of large scale (factory) organic growers and traders – a very powerful group. Several smaller organic farmers with strong local brands are actually choosing to de-certify their farms – partly because of the costs and partly because of the organic principles they believe in.

As relative newcomers, this presents an interesting choice – should we undertake the process to certify our produce as organic or not?

While there is still some time before we have our own farm and seriously consider certification, we’ve formed some views on this subject…

  1. Third-party certification agencies are just to expensive for us to approach for certifying small farms like ours (less than 2 acres)
  2. The PGS certification is a good option and makes a lot of sense if we can get at least 6 other farmers from nearby to join in and apply. Managed well it can be as effective and is recognised widely in India.
  3. If you are looking to export produce, only third-party certification seems to make sense. However, we have no intention of exporting.
  4. But if your customers are largely local, your practices transparent, and you keep your standards high – you don’t really need the certification.

As a result, we’ve decided to take a lot of effort to meet the PGS principles for organic farms and encourage our farm owners to prepare for certification with the help of the Botanical Society of Goa. At the same time, we maintain an open farm for customers to come and see our growing practices fisthand – which helps build a relationship of trust that certification usually provides.

In time, perhaps we will also look to raise our standards Beyond Organic – for real and not just implied sustainability.

Note: Here is another perspective on the reasons to go for Organic Certification – from Nisha and Raghu

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