We’re about to have our official annual Organic certification inspection, scheduled for this Thursday, June 10. Last year our initial inspection happened in early April, because the certifier understood we were eager to start using the word and symbol officially, but inspectors would rather visit later in the season so there’s more to be seen. Thus the June date this year.
We shouldn’t be nervous. We’re certainly following the actual agricultural practices dictated by the NOP standards, and they won’t find any faults there (no violations of inputs or anything like that). But the record-keeping and other details of remaining certified are difficult to manage, and we have to be able to prove to an inspector’s standards that we’re doing everything right. That is, after all, the point of certification: it’s an independent audit that relies on more than the farmer’s word.
The official certification notice indicated that there will be multiple audits of our paper trail, meaning (I think) that the inspector will attempt to track several products seed-to-sale through our records, which is what we’re supposed to be able to prove. This is one of those requirements which is pretty easy for a large, one-crop farm and very difficult for a small, 200+ variety farm. We go to great lengths to keep such records, as they are extremely important for our own planning purposes, among other things. But records are imperfect. Getting a complete picture of harvest quantities is difficult when we’ve mixed units, sometimes recording weights and sometimes volumes, without always having good conversion factors. And I’ve found places where I’ve just plain made mistakes writing things down; we’re human, it happens.
So it will be interesting to see how this goes.