Here at OGS we like to celebrate farms that are doing the things we believe in — making local, sustainably grown food accessible to our community; educating the next generation of farmers; and approaching farming in an ecological way. We are not organic with a big “O”; we were named almost 30 years ago when certification wasn’t even an option. We support farmers to grow more sustainably, whatever that means to them.
We support farms and farmers who are interested in pursuing both the well-known USDA Organic Certification, and alternative certification options.
Organic Certification has it’s benefits and assurances, but often it’s prohibitive for small-scale producers due to record-keeping capacity. It’s important to understand the standards for alternative certifications, and make a certification decision that upholds your values in ways that might not translate to USDA National Organic Program standards.
If you’re an organic consumer, find food in Western North Carolina using the OGS Farm Network.
Organic Certification Options
“We are accredited by the USDA-National Organic Program to certify operations who wish to market their products as organic in the following areas: Crop Production, Handler/Processor, Livestock and Wild Crops…We further aide our certified clients by advocating for laws and policies that advance organic agriculture through active memberships in associations and committees.”
“Americert International is a USDA accredited certifying agent under the USDA National Organic Program providing organic certification for producers, processors, and handlers … Americert International focuses on flat fee, customer-service oriented organic certification for operations of all types and sizes.”
“Focuses solely on certification of organic operations and is a National Organic Program accredited organic certifying agent owned and operated by Massachusetts Independent Certification, Inc. (MICI). MICI is a non-profit business dedicated to sustainable agriculture and food certification organized as a 501(c)3 corporation. MICI is dedicated to providing affordable certification services to farms using sustainable agriculture practices and to food processing and handling operations that purchase sustainable agriculture products.”
“CCOF is more than just a certifier; we’re your partner in the organic movement. We support and promote organic through certification, education, and advocacy. Buying organic is a direct investment in the future of our planet, so we work to grow the organic market and our members’ businesses by educating consumers about this important relationship to our food.”
“From its creation, Ecocert has specialized in the certification of organic agricultural products and has diversified its range of services to include organic and natural cosmetics, ecoproducts, fair trade, green spaces, etc. Ecocert Inc. answers to US clients’ request to receive a worldwide, well-known certification brand. In 2010, Ecocert Inc. continued to develop its activities in the USA by purchasing Indiana Certified Organic LLC. Indiana Certified Organic began offering organic certification in 1995 and was one of the first certification agency to be accredited by the National Organic Program.”
Canadian and US organic certification.
”ICS is a wholly owned subsidiary of Where Food Comes From, Inc., specializing in organic, gluten-free and related certification services. ICS was one of the first organic certification companies in the U.S., founded in 1979 as Farm Verified Organic, Inc. … The company has played an integral role in establishing organic standards and certification processes and procedures over the last 35 years, and continues to be a leader in the organic certification industry today.”
“Over the past 40 years, Oregon Tilth has led the way in organic agriculture and sustainable production methods, playing a leading role in the formation of a federal USDA National Organic Program and expanding organic sustainability beyond agriculture to textiles and other products. We believe in a holistic approach to food production and encourage producers to create organic systems that improve soils, preserve natural resources and minimize public health risks. Our work with processors, handlers and marketers of organic products ensures the organic integrity of products from the farm to the table, and everything in between.”
“To ensure the integrity of organic products and provide education, inspection, and certification services that meet the needs of our members. PCO provides services to operations based in Pennsylvania, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO) is a USDA-accredited organic certifying agency that educates and certifies growers, processors and handlers of organic crops, wild crops, livestock and livestock products in Pennsylvania and adjoining states.”
“Quality Assurance International is a leading USDA-accredited organic product certifying agency. Founded in San Diego, California in 1989, QAI has been an active leader in the organic industry, advocating for high integrity organic regulations since its beginning. QAI is committed to ensuring organic integrity at every link in the organic production chain and providing excellent customer service, domestically and internationally. Today, QAI is a member of the NSF International family of companies.”
Regenerative Organic Certified™, or ROC, is overseen by the Regenerative Organic Alliance, a non-profit made up of experts in farming, ranching, soil health, animal welfare, and farmer and worker fairness.
“Stellar Certification Services was formed so that Demeter certified producers [biodynamic producers] could also legally label as organic. Stellar was one of the first NOP accredited organic certifiers in the country.”
Other Certification Options
“Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) is a food label for meat and dairy products that come from farm animals raised to the highest animal welfare and environmental standards.”
“The Appalachian GrownTM logo is displayed with farm products grown or raised in Western North Carolina and the Southern Appalachian Mountains.”
“Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) offers peer-review certification to farmers and beekeepers producing food for their local communities by working in harmony with nature, without relying on synthetic chemicals or GMOs.”
“The Demeter Biodynamic® Farm Standard applies to the certification of farms and ranches for the purpose of allowing their farms and ranches and resulting agricultural products to carry the Demeter certification marks “Biodynamic®”, “Demeter®” and Demeter Certified Biodynamic®. The Demeter Biodynamic Farm and Processing Standards meet the minimum requirements set by Demeter International. These base standards form a common legal foundation and agricultural framework for Biodynamic practice worldwide.”
Equitable Food Initiative
“The Equitable Food Initiative certification is a comprehensive audit that applies broadly to all fruit and vegetable crops and address labor conditions, food safety and pest management.”
“We provide farms and food businesses with technical tools to improve work and trade practices from farm to retail, including extensive toolkits and templates, one-on-one technical assistance, and a stakeholder-driven certification program for high bar social justice standards — Food Justice Certification (FJC), the gold standard for labor and trade practices in North America. We support and partner with third-party certifiers and worker organizations that carry out the certification and inspection process for the FJC program. Food Justice Certified products can be found on grocery store shelves, farmers markets, CSAs and roadside stands. We maintain a Social Justice Fund, through which five percent of all grants received are set aside, and a portion is used to subsidize certification fees through our cost share program for small family farms and independent retailers and cooperatives that have excellent labor practices, but are experiencing economic hardship.”
“Established in 2005, The Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO), an industry program of the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG), is dedicated to providing certification services to producers of gluten-free products using quality assessment and control measures throughout production, in order to provide assurance to consumers of the safety of their foods.”
“In March 2008, Just Economics launched our Living Wage Certification Program, which identifies and promotes local employers that pay a Living Wage. Although the program originated in Buncombe and Transylvania, we now have employers in several counties in WNC. Since 2008, we have Certified 400+ local employers.”
“The Non-GMO Project is a mission-driven nonprofit organization dedicated to building and protecting a non-GMO food supply. We do this through consumer education and outreach programs; marketing support provided to Non-GMO Project Verified brands; and training resources and merchandising materials provided to retailers.”
Author: Carrie Moran
Carrie Moran is the Director of Systems & Communications. They hold a Masters of Library and Information Science from Drexel University, and their professional background is in the world of academic libraries. During their library career, they focused on using empathetic user experience design methods to create safe spaces for people to learn, both in person and online. In addition to their work at OGS, they are a co-owner of Harmonize Your Health, a holistic wellness company whose mission is to introduce their community and clients to a variety of healing modalities that are aligned with respect for our bodies and this beautiful planet we live on.