Having a plan for how you want to plan to manage your farm is not only a valuable business and management exercise – if you are or want to be a certified organic farmer then it is a necessity. Section 4 of The Canadian Organic Standards require every producer or processor to have an organic plan that outlines “the details of your transition, production, preparation and management practices”.
Luckily, the organic certification bodies have made building an organic plan easy for you – they have designed their questionnaires to gather all of the information required by the COS. In addition to asking you detailed questions, they will also provide a list of supporting documentation required.
There are two main components of an organic plan:
YOUR PRACTICES AND PROCEDURES.
What crops are you planning to seed this year? What are your crop rotations? How do you manage your weeds? Pests? What do you do to build soil fertility? What type of equipment do you use? Where do you store your harvested crop? What steps do you take to protect your crops from contamination both in the field and in storage? How do you ensure your crop doesn’t accidentally get mixed with non-organic crop? Where do you get your seed from? Is it treated? Is it organic? Do you irrigate? What kind of living conditions do you have for your livestock? What do you feed them? How do you ensure they stay healthy? What do you do if they get sick? Your organic plan must be updated every year to reflect changes in your management practices, any problems you may have had, and what you did to help solve those problems.
Keeping good records is the foundation of an organic plan – and for many producers it is also the most daunting. The most important thing to remember is that you must be able to document that you do what you say you do. It can be as simple and basic as keeping a daily journal or calendar to write down exactly what you do each day – up to complicated spreadsheets that help you track things. It is crucial that you be able to track each crop from the seed that was used, to the field it was planted in, to the equipment that was used to harvest and truck it, through the storage facility to the end user. Your records will show that you did everything possible to protect the organic integrity of your crop at every stage that was within your control. If you are a livestock producer you will keep birth and feed records as well as tracking any treatments you may have used, either homeopathic or other. These records must be kept for at least 5 years.When the organic inspector arrives at your farm for the annual inspection, they will verify your organic plan through a combination of walking your fields and barns, looking at your equipment and storage facilities and generally confirming that you are protecting the organic integrity of your products from beginning to end. They will also spend some time at the kitchen table reviewing your records to ensure they are an accurate representation of what you are doing, and that it is possible to track each product from beginning to end.