Requirements for Certification

Goal: Understanding the organic process from the crop farmer and the certified inspector points of view.

1) Organic History

Lecture: survey/research presentation, combination of lecture, discussion, and case study methods individual and group research project, final project portfolio development

Students presented with social, economic, and ecological consequences of the modern, industrial agriculture paradigm. Topics include history of agriculture, worldviews, the sustainability concept, organic agriculture systems, world food systems, and local food systems.

  • Global/U.S. agricultural history and emerging growth of the organic industry.
  • Overview of the USDA organic certification and field management regulations.
  • Practical problems surrounding organic and sustainable production.

Resources:

https://www.foodspan.org

Organic Regulation Certification Transition History

Fundamentals of Organic Agriculture – Past and Present

2) Five Steps to Organic Certification

Lecture/Lab: combination of lecture, discussion, and case study methods individual and group research project, final project portfolio development.

  • The organic brand provides consumers with more choices in the marketplace. The USDA protects consumer options by protecting the organic seal.
  • The coursework will cover the rules that allow a farm or processing facility to sell, label, and represent their products as organic.
  • Students will learn how organic farming differs from conventional, contrasting factors in a conventional vs. organic farm system operation. 
  • Students will gain an understanding of the parameters of the USDA organic label, which is backed by a certification system that verifies farmers or handling facilities located anywhere in the world comply with the federal organic regulations.

Resources:

Interactive video on the certification steps: “The Road to Organic Certification” https://www.ams.usda.gov/reports/road-organic-certification

Instruction: https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/2601.pdf

Five Steps to Organic Certification Blog

Is Organic an Option for Me?

3) Organic Overview/Organic System Plan

Lecture/Lab: combination of lecture, discussion, and case study methods individual and group research project, final project portfolio development OurFARMS blog

Introduction to sustainable and organic agriculture definitions, concepts, principles under the governance of USDA Agriculture Marketing Service, National Organic Program

  • The OSP is a detailed description of the practices and procedures used by your operation to produce organic goods. Operations must update their OSP as changes occur.
  • USDA organic standards and practices, including requirement for developing an Organic Systems Plan

Resources:

National Organic Program: https://www.ams.usda.gov/about-ams/programs-offices/national-organic-program

https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/organic-certification/organic-system-plan

https://www.ams.usda.gov/reports/organic-system-plan-template

4) Prohibited, Allowed Substances: National List

Lecture/Lab: combination of lecture, discussion, and case-study methods individual and group research project, final project portfolio development USDA organic regulations regarding prohibited and allowed substance.

  • Review of National List
  • Recordkeeping requirements for documenting prevention of contamination and commingling, with GMOs and other prohibited substances.
  • Genetic engineering and genetically modified organisms as prohibited in organic products (e.g., organic farmers can’t plant GMO seeds, can’t feed organic cows GMO alfalfa or corn, and organic soup producers are prohibited from any GMO ingredients).

Resources:

https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-7/subtitle-B/chapter-I/subchapter-M/part-205/subpart-G

https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/national-list-allowed-and-prohibited-substances

5) Soil Fertility, Soil Health

Lecture/Lab: combination of lecture, discussion, and casestudy methods individual and group research project, final project portfolio development OurFARMS: Case Study Discussion/Blogging with Certified Organic Producers

  • Relationship between the USDA organic regulations and sustainable soil management
  • Role of organic agriculture in a sustainable food systems model
  • Soil health foundation as the basis for ecological land management.
  • Management practices to conserve and improve soils. Hands-on, soil management lab activities: process of building soil nutrient, cover cropping systems, and organic amendments
  • Soil management plans for annual and perennial cropping systems
  • Case studies method to connect sustainable agriculture principles to actual farming practices.
  • Field component: Visits to virtual, local farms and guest speakers.

Resources:

https://www.foodspan.org

https://www.organic-crop-production.com/organic_crop_production/about_this_title/introduction.htm

6) Organic Compost/Manure

Lecture/Lab: combination of lecture, discussion, and casestudy methods individual and group research project, final project portfolio development OurFARMS: Case Study Discussion/Blogging with Certified Organic Producers

Use of composted manures and plant materials in farming date to the earliest beginnings of agriculture.

  • Coursework will include Introduction to composting and its important role in building healthy soils in organic agriculture production.
  • Students will be learning how compost betters soil properties, provides nutrients in a stable organic form, increases plant growth and health, and conserves water.
  • Composting processes, including the role of microbes in thermophilic composting and a survey of a variety of composting methods.
  • Mulch reduces weed germination, moderates soil temperature, and conserves water.
  • Impact of essential nutrients on plant growth and development and food production, including the relationships between organic nutrients and soil fertility.

Resources:

https://calrecycle.ca.gov/organics/farming/

7) Organic Seeds (Crops Rotation, Cover Crops)

Lecture/Lab: combination of lecture, discussion, and casestudy methods individual and group research project, final project portfolio development

  • Organic seeds are just that – organically grown. In other words, they are grown using sustainable methods from start to finish. Can a farmer grow organic produce without organic seed? During a farm’s annual review and inspection, certifying agents verify if a certified operations uses organic seeds.
  • Like other organic products, seeds used in organic agriculture can’t be genetically engineered or treated with prohibited substances.

Resources:

https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/7/205.204

https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2014/12/18/organic-101-organic-seeds-are-fundamental-right-start

Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) and its partner, the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA)

Hawai‘i https://seedalliance.org/regions/hawaii/

AOSCA Organic Seed Finder

8) Weeds Control and Diseases (§205.206)

Hands-on Lab/Discussion/Blogging: OurFARMS: Presentation by Certified Organic Producers

Weeds happen. Students will be introduced to a broad spectrum of important factors that comprise weed-control strategies including soil conditions, weather, crop rotation, cover crops markets and specific market quality demands, and available time and labor.

Resources:

https://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards/seeds-and-planting-stock-practice-standard

https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/7/205.206

9) Crop pest, weed, disease management practice

Lecture/Lab: combination of lecture, discussion, and case study methods

individual and group research project, final project portfolio development

  • History of pest management, including development of I-Pest-M strategies, tactics and how they are utilized in ecologically based pest management programs.
  • Introduction to IPM principles, including valuing knowledge about the pest’s habits, life cycle, needs and dislikes, using the least toxic methods first, up to and including pesticides.
  • Reviewing IPM strategies form compliance with the USDA organic regulations, including adherence to the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances
  • Introduction to IPM strategies, including monitoring pest activity and adjust methods over time, tolerating harmless pests, and setting a threshold to decide when it’s time to act.

Resources:

I-Pest-M Strategies https://ucanr.edu/sites/cvlandscape/Central_Valley_Friendly_Guidelines/Practice_Integrated_Pest_Management/

https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/7/205.206

10) Post Harvest Handling, Labeling, Commingling

Lecture/Lab: Combination of lecture, discussion, and case study methods individual and group research project, final project portfolio development

The instant a crop is removed from the ground, or separated from its parent plant, it begins to deteriorate. Under organic production, growers harvest and market their produce at or near peak ripeness more commonly than in many conventional systems.

  • Students will be introduced to organic post-harvesting considerations, processes and procedures requiring OSP recordkeeping and food safety documentation.

Resources:

https://escholarship.org/uc/item/6p64157q

https://postharvest.ucdavis.edu/Commodity_Resources/Fact_Sheets/

https://www.extension.iastate.edu/Documents/MCMS/GAPSpostharvest.pdf

11) Recordkeeping

Lecture/Lab: combination of lecture, discussion, and case study methods Performance-based Evaluation Presentation, OSP Fair: Written and Oral Presentation

Extensive recordkeeping is required certified operations, production, harvesting, post-harvest handling products. The rules require full transparency of all activities and transactions of the certified operation in what USDA defined as “in sufficient detail as to be readily understood and audited.”

  • There are three types of documentation that enable accredited certifying agents (certifiers) to verify a producer’s compliance with the National Organic Program (NOP) Regulations:
  • a) The producer’s records of farm operation activities
  • b) The Organic System Plan (OSP)
  • c) Audit trail documents (e.g., purchase invoices, organic certificates, contracted custom application or harvest records, soil test results, sales invoices, etc.)
  • Students will practice logging, documenting and recordkeeping using official OSP forms, and will research and review samples.
  • Students will carry-out mock recordkeeping plans, accompanying forms and documentation. Record keeping includes written farm plan management, operations, inputs, purchase receipts required in OSP, and presented during the annual audit, inspectors visits.
  • Student final presentation for certification will include written farm plan management, operations, inputs, purchase receipts required in OSP, and presented during the annual audit, inspectors visits.

Resources:

Organic Inspection Checklist

Organic Farming Plan Checklist 

Organic Farming Plan Template

Organic Management Plan Checklist

12) Supervised Agriculture Experience (SAE)

Real World Experience

          Virtual Visits, Farm Internship, Apprenticeship Sustainable, Organic Farm

  • Classroom Component: On School Farm sites; demonstrated preparation; performance- based assessments and evaluation, evaluation of oral and written individual and team presentation.
  • Field component: hands-on farming experience and site visits to area farms and immersion in farm management techniques that apply key sustainable, organic agriculture concepts.
  • Gain Real Life Experience in: regulated techniques in harvesting, postharvest handling, transplanting, seeding, weeding, marketing, crop planning, seed and supply inventory, variety selection, record keeping, and other aspects of diversified farm management and maintenance.

Related Resources:

Multiple Case Study of STEM in School-Based Agricultural Education https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1122767