Organic certifier marks 40th anniversary

01/24/2013 11:13:00 AM
Mike Hornick

PACIFIC GROVE, Calif. — California Certified Organic Farmers marked its 40th anniversary with a tour of Central Coast growers, its backers pausing along the way to reflect on obstacles overcome or still in their path.

The tour, which ended with a talk by Earthbound Farm co-founder Myra Goodman, led up to the first sessions of the 33rd annual EcoFarm Conference Jan. 23-26. About 1,500 registered for the conference in Pacific Grove.

The CCOF group started off at Phil Foster Ranches near Hollister, a 250-acre operation that markets a variety of organic vegetables and fruits under the Pinnacle label. At the U.S. Agricultural Research Station in Salinas they met with Roy Fuentes, owner of Fuentes Berry Farms — who grows for the Driscoll’s label — and research horticulturalist Eric Brennan.

To sample organic operations on a smaller scale, the tour finished at Serendipity Farms in Carmel Valley with co-owner Jamie Collins.

“The diversity of organic was really reflected in the places we visited,” said Cathy Calfo, CCOF executive director. “It’s great to celebrate how far we’ve come. But we’re only less than 5% of all agricultural production and it’s really the next generation that’s going to grow it to be may 10, 20, 30%. That’s the opportunity.”

“Earthbound is a large company now, but they started at (the University of California-Santa Cruz) at the farm and garden project and have grown,” Calfo said.

Myra Goodman Earthbound FarmMike HornickMyra Goodman, co-founder of Earthbound Farm, speaks at a Jan. 23 reception in Pacific Grove, Calif., marking the 40th anniversary of California Certified Organic Farmers.Goodman recounted CCOF’s role in Earthbound’s rise.

“When we started our farm in our back yard in 1984 ... there wasn’t a lot of support,” Goodman said. “When we realized that we could get certified organic, it was exciting. CCOF certified us when we were 2-1/2 acres and they have grown with usWe have 40,000 acres.”

Earthbound Farm now markets produce from 40,000 acres in California, other states and other countries.

“They’ve been very neutral in terms of big, small and processors,” she said.

It wasn’t a quick take-off for Earthbound, Goodman recalled.

“It’s good we did not know how rocky and hard this road would be,” she said. “When we started selling to Costco in 1993, they did not want organic on the label. They said organic meant worse quality and overpriced. Now Costco wants as much organic as possible. All these retailers want organic private label.”

CCOF certifies the company’s organic products and practices, and also helps Earthbound Farm understand new regulations and lobbies for organic producers in Washington, D.C., Goodman said.

Fuentes Berry FarmsFuentesFuentes started growing berries for Driscoll’s in 1985. He formed his own company in 2003, and now oversees about 116 acres of organic blackberries, strawberries and raspberries in Watsonville and Salinas, and plans to convert his conventional acreage over time.

“It’s a lot of learning to do but once you have your own land and you’re doing some cover cropping and finding the different crop rotations to compensate your soil, you’ll be OK and keep it healthy,” he said.

Brennan said research is taking place on 25 acres of land at the station and collaborating farms. There is for-profit production at the station, he said.

Several of CCOF’s early leaders, among them Bob Scowcroft and Mark Lipson, spoke to the tour group.



Comments (3) Leave a comment 

Name
e-Mail (required)
Location

Comment:

characters left

Mischa Popoff    
Osoyoos BC  |  January, 25, 2013 at 09:06 AM

40 years of certifying organic farms and still no field testing. Why not ask CCOF how many tests they've done in the last year? Or ever? According to the USDA, the number of organic field tests carried out in 2011 "represents a sampling rate of less than 1% of certified operations.” Most of these tests were carried out by foreign certifiers, usually in the EU. (See Federal Register Volume 77, Number 218, Friday, November 9, 2012, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-11-09/html/2012-27378.htm.) This lack of field testing in the organic industry is the only obstacle left to overcome.

Robin Boyle, CCOF Director of Marketing, Member Services & Development    
Santa Cruz, CA  |  January, 26, 2013 at 02:33 PM

CCOF’s continually works to improve organic certification processes. CCOF’s “LUCI” program was launched in 2008 and its follow-up “Troika” initiative in 2010 – both of which served as models for new NOP periodic residue testing requirements. LUCI Program: http://ccof.org/sites/default/files/media/Documents/Certification/PDFs/luci_program_public.pdf Testing has an important role in the process. CCOF supported the implementation of expanded residue testing and worked hard to ensure that a new periodic residue testing requirement take effect Jan 1 of this year. However, it’s important to remember that organic production can neither be proven nor defined through testing. Following LUCI, we launched the CCOF Troika program, combining elements of pesticide residue testing, expanded unannounced inspections, and a pilot farmers’ market inspection program. We proactively expanded residue testing as part of our effort to support the quality of the USDA National Organic Program. We’ve also refined our pesticide residue testing processes and are implementing the final standards that require certifiers to perform residue testing annually. CCOF has not found residues on any products we’ve tested but we have implemented investigations in response to testing by others. The new NOP residue testing requirement was strongly supported by CCOF and provides certifiers with latitude to apply testing where it can most effectively ensure organic integrity. More on the Periodic Residue Testing rule: www.ams.usda.gov/nop CCOF supported the NOSB’s recommendations on organic inspector qualifications and unannounced inspections. We’ve performed unannounced inspections and support the NOP making this a required part of the accreditation process.

Mischa Popoff    
Osoyoos BC  |  January, 26, 2013 at 03:03 PM

Dear Robin: The link you provide (http://ccof.org/sites/default/files/media/Documents/Certification/PDFs/luci_program_public.pdf) makes no mention whatsoevber of testing. None. If you're claim that "Testing has an important role in the process" is to be believed, shouldn't you provide a better example? Also, if CCOF is indeed finally implementing some sort of organic testing, please be sure that it's FIELD testing and not end-product testing. Prohibited substances like Roundup are only detectable in the field. I await your response.

Join the conversation - sign up for FREE today!
FeedWind
Feedback Form
Leads to Insight