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