MOFGA Certifies More than 500 Organic Producers

The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) is excited to announce that as of August 2016, Maine has more than 500 certified organic farms and processors, according to MOFGA Certification Services LLC (MCS). About 464 farms (some of which are involved in processing as well) and 46 processors are certified by MOFGA Certification Services.

This milestone means that almost 6 percent of Maine’s 8,200 farm operations are certified organic — one of the largest percentages in the country, based on the most recent data available (from the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture and the 2014 USDA Census of Organic Farms). Nationwide the figure is about 0.6 percent.

MOFGA was one of the first organic certifiers in the country, beginning in 1972 with Ken and Roberta Horn, who farmed the 140-acre Ken-Ro Farm in Plymouth. The organization certified 26 additional farms as organic that year — all by following Rodale Organic Garden certification guidelines. For many years MOFGA staff members Eric Sideman (organic crop specialist) and Diane Schivera (organic livestock specialist) along with a MOFGA certification committee had primary responsibility for certification and followed state law regarding standards.

In 2002, when federal standards took effect, MOFGA hired Mary Yurlina to develop and oversee MCS, to meet United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program regulations. The MCS program now has a staff of eight, is co-directed by Kate Newkirk and Jaco Schravesande-Gardei, and has a volunteer management committee.

In addition MOFGA was the first organization in the country to provide technical assistance specific to organic farming and gardening. The agricultural services staff provides farming, gardening and marketing assistance to growers in Maine and beyond. Katy Green, MOFGA’s organic transitions coordinator, helps guide farmers and processors who are interested in becoming organic.

Certified organic farms must follow federal rules regarding building soil health and promoting biological diversity. They use cultural practices such as cover cropping and crop rotation, and mechanical practices such as insect-excluding row covers, as primary means of maintaining plant and soil health. Pesticides (most coming from natural materials) are allowed only as a last resort, and most pesticides approved for organic production are of low toxicity and break down quickly. Livestock on organic farms must have access to the outdoors and may not be treated with antibiotics or with added growth hormones. Certified organic processors can use only organic products or must have strict separation of organic products from non-certified products.

Certified organic farms and processors are inspected annually by a third party, with MCS used most often in Maine. By law, MCS also regularly conducts random tests of certified operations for pesticide residues.

Consumers can find an interactive list of MOFGA-certified organic farms and products at http://www.mofgacertification.org. Products include vegetables, fruits, maple syrup, dairy, meat, herbs, cut flowers, Christmas trees, hay, grains, processed products – even mushrooms and seaweed. MOFGA and MCS also put out a free annual publication called Organic Maine!, a directory of MOFGA-certified organic farms, foods and products, in printed magazine format and as a PDF available at http://www.mofgacertification.org.

 

Data sources

USDA’s 2015 State Agriculture Overview https://www.nass.usda.gov/Quick_Stats/Ag_Overview/stateOverview.php?state=MAINE

USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture, State Summary Highlights

https://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2012/Full_Report/Volume_1,_Chapter_2_US_State_Level/st99_2_001_001.pdf

Organic Sales as Percent of Market Value of All Agricultural Products Sold – Certified Organic Farms: 2014

https://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2012/Online_Resources/Organics/organics_1_028_028.pdf

 

The Organic Sprout is Back – Spring 2016 Issue

OS_Spring16_Front page
After a 3 year hiatus, The Organic Sprout, MOFGA’s Newsletter for Organic Producers, is back with the Spring 2016 issue. If you haven’t yet received your copy in the mail, you can read and download the PDF here.

 

2016 Organic Maine! Hot off the press!

To get copies for your store, farm stand, local library, etc, call MOFGA at 568-4142.  You can download a PDF of the directory here.

 

Application forms for 2016 – Deadline is June 30th!

Find the forms you need to apply for certification in 2016 by using the drop down menus at the top of this webpage. If you would like to be contacted directly and be on our emailing list, please follow this link.

Have technical questions about organic management techniques, creating an organic system plan or accessing organic markets?   The Ag Services team at MOFGA may be able to help.  Check them out HERE.

Good information available from MOFGA’s Ag Services

Pest reports….If you grow crops, you’ll want to check out Eric Sideman’s pest reports.  Tomato & potato growers, we hope you are dodging late blight this season.

Price reports…Heather Omand’s summer price report can be found here.  If you value this information, consider contributing to the dataset.

 

Pesticide Licensing Reminder

BPC Website Link: http://www.maine.gov/dacf/php/pesticides/applicators/ApplicatorTraining.html

In the spring of 2011, the Maine Legislature passed a law mandating that any grower who annually sells more than $1,000 worth of plants or plant products intended for human consumption and who uses any general use pesticides, including those approved for use in organic production, be licensed by April 1, 2015. To clarify who will need a license, the BPC recently developed a policy to address common questions. Note that growers who do not use any pesticides on their crops in the field but do use a sanitizer in wash water will need to go through the licensing process.

There are two ways to obtain a license. Growers can attend a training and testing session and then apply for the license after passing the test. Upcoming training opportunities are listed on the BPC website.  Alternatively, growers can obtain a training manual from their local Cooperative Extension office, study on their own at home and then return to the Cooperative Extension office to take the test. MOFGA’s upcoming winter Growers Meetings will be held at Cooperative Extension offices throughout the state in an effort to make this testing option easily accessible.  Growers should direct questions about testing options to Gary Fish (gary.fish@maine.gov or 207-287-2731). If you are an organic grower who is having difficulty obtaining a license, or would be interested in attending a training and testing at MOFGA in Unity, please let us know by contacting Katy Green (kgreen@mofga.org or 207-568-4142).

 

Community, Connections, and Kohlrabi at the Common Ground Country Fair

by Kristen Farrell, Operations Assistant, MOFGA Certification Services 

The 38th annual Common Ground Country Fair brought over 50,000 people to Unity the weekend of September 19-21. As fairgoers entered the grounds, they were greeted by the sights, smells, and sounds of a farmers market full of fresh, organic food and products. 

In past years there was only one market area, at the Fair entrance known as the Rose Gate. Four years ago, after the number of vendors who wanted to participate outgrew the space available, Fair organizers decided to create a second market area on the other side of the grounds, at the Pine Gate.

A total of 36 vendors, all certified organic, greeted fairgoers at both entrances this year, giving the public the opportunity to meet farmers and producers face-to-face as they shopped and enjoyed their delicious finds. As for myself, I was on the hunt for a kohlrabi, curious to try a new recipe I had found in a MOFGA pamphlet. There were so many varieties of vegetables to choose from at each booth, it was hard not to get a little of everything.

 

     

In addition to browsing the markets, I was able to get to know several of our certified producers while volunteering at the MOFGA membership tent. JoAnn Meyers, of Beau Chemin Preservation Farm, shared my volunteer slot, and I learned a lot about her farm and the endangered breeds that she and her husband raise. Several visitors to the tent were farmers new to Maine, who were interested in finding out more about MOFGA and how to certify their own farms. I look forward to seeing their applications on my desk in the near future.

It was wonderful for me, as a new staff member at Certification Services, to meet our certified producers, most of whom I had previously only met over phone and e-mail. The energy of the whole weekend made me realize what an amazing community we have here, whether we are farmers, processors, gardeners, or simply those interested in living closer to the earth. As I left the Fair on Friday afternoon, my giant kohlrabi in tow, it reinforced for me the importance of connecting with the people who produce our food, of appreciating the land that it comes from, and of valuing this great community that I am now a part of.

                         

National Organic Seed Survey

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/JFRSKKZ

The Organic Seed Alliance has launched its national organic seed survey. The survey comes around every five years, and seeks to assess certified crop producers’ attitudes and perceptions regarding organic seed, as well as better understand current organic seed usage. 

Certified organic crop producers, whether or not they currently use organic seeds, are encouraged to take a few minutes to complete the survey. All responses are voluntary and confidential, and will be processed in aggregate; no data will be identified by individual or farm. 

The data collected through this survey will be analyzed and compiled as part of the next State of Organic Seed report, which will be published in 2015. This report captures successes, obstacles, opportunities, and risks in organic seed systems, and will offer detailed recommendations for improving access to seed that is optimal for U.S. organic agriculture.

What a handsome bunch!

Profile image of MOFGACertification

MOFGACertification

We’ve created a pinterest collection of all the MOFGA-certified organic producer profiles to date.  Check it out here:  http://www.pinterest.com/MOFGACertified/mofga-certified-farmers/

22 April 14 Field Notes-Maple Syrup

 

Jerome Rigot and I just returned from the last of the maple syrup inspections in the north woods of Somerset County, Maine.  In order to access these sugar camps, located in the unorganized territory of Seboomook Lake, we stay in St. Georges, Quebec, and must cross in and out of Maine each day using obscure border crossings.

 

 

A few feet of snow still covers the ground in these woods.  Although it does not look particularly mountainous, this maple syrup producing region is about 1500 feet above sea level.  When sap in lower elevation sugarbush areas in Maine and Quebec have ceased to flow, producers here are still making syrup. 

The producers are Quebecois and many have been making syrup for generations in these Maine woods.  While some of the camps look quite rustic, the equipment used to concentrate sap and boil it into syrup is state of the art.  

When we add up all the taps in sugar maple trees that are part of the organic system plans we approve, we get nearly one million.  That comes to about 265,000 gallons of MOFGA-certified organic maple syrup.

 

We want to give special thanks to Adam Lee (Lee Toyota in Topsham) for providing us with an awesome Toyota Tundra 4X4 for this most recent trip.  The logging roads we have to travel on feature the best of winter and mud season this time of year!

Mary
MOFGA Certification Services Director