For newcomers to the organic industry, understanding the organic handlers' role in the organic food and product supply chain can be confusing. Without organic handlers, farmers and retailers wouldn't have the help they need to get their products from farm, or processor, to the consumer.
So, what exactly does an organic handler do?
Organic handlers move organic products though the entire supply chain. In general, a handler is anyone who handles agricultural products.
Expanded, the term handler includes producers who handle crops or livestock, distributors, marketing companies, packers and shippers, warehouses, brokers and anyone else that may sell, distribute, or pack organic products.
The term handler does not include final retailers of agricultural products.
Since almost all organic products on the market pass through the hands of at least one middleman handler, often more than one middleman handler, it's clear that efficient and safe organic handling is one of the most important jobs in the organic industry.
Only certified organic handlers can handle organic products. Handler that meet organic standards under the USDA National Organic Program may qualify for USDA organic certification.
The Organic Handler Path:
- Organic handlers procure organic products, such as organic berries or vegetables from a farmer, or another organic supplier.
- The handler, or handling firm, often adds value to the organic product by processing the product into another product, such as organic jam or organic baby food.
- The handler then packages or repackages the final organic product.
- The handler then sells the product to another handler, an institution, a retail operation, or direct to the consumer.