IMPORTANT NOTE: This organic question is for growers who are interested in owning a real business, not simply having a hobby farm. If one of your small organic farm goals is profits, this is the right place to be. If your main goal is to grow just enough food for your family to eat, then head over to one of the following About.com guide sites - Small Farms or Organic Gardening.
The issue of organic certification for a small organic farm business revolves around three key questions:
1. How much income do you estimate making?
So, as an example, if you sell just $4,500 worth of organic veggies this year, thus not going over that $5,000 amount, then organic certification status is up to you. You can choose to get certified, but you don't have to. Keep in mind though, if you're marketing your products as organic, but are exempt, you still have to follow the same National Organic Program (NOP) policies and procedures as other, larger organic producers.
If your small farm brings in a lot of profit ($5,000 or more) you don't have a choice in the matter. If you're making $5,000+ and telling folks that your crops are organic, you must apply for organic certification.
- 11 FAQ About Organic Certification Exemption
- Issues to Consider Before Getting Certified
- How to Get Certified Organic
2. Do you want to be able to use the organic seal?
If you do not get certified, even if you're officially exempt, you cannot use the USDA Organic Seal on farm products, business signage or in printed farm literature (for example, a farm brochure). If you're concerned about needing, or wanting to use organic labels on your products, then you'll need to get certified.
- FAQ About About Organic Labels
- 10 Product Labels That Don't Mean Organic
- Do Organic Products Need a Special PLU or UPC Code?
3. What does organic integrity mean to you and your potential buyers?
Some people, growers and consumers alike, align official certification with organic integrity. This is not entirely true. Non-certified organic growers can have lots of organic integrity, and many small farmers grow 100% organic crops, without actually being certified. Certification alone doesn't dictate actions, ethics or practices.
That said, if promoting official organics is important to you, then you should find a way to get certified. It's your business, so you may as well run it in a way that makes you feel good.
Additionally, something to consider is that while some consumers are perfectly happy taking the time to talk about organic practices with a non-certified organic grower, some aren't. Many consumers really want to see that official organic seal before they plunk down cash for organics.
Before you decide either way, it may pay off to do some basic market research about the organic consumers in your area.