Are urban farms and gardens near Cal Poly Pomona certified organic? Many urban farms and community gardens today throughout San Bernardino county, Los Angeles county, and even nationwide are growing food for their communities organically yet are not USDA certified as organic. The truth is that to be certified, it can be an expensive and extensive process that requires paperwork and funds. However, these urban farms have found alternative ways to advertise their produce that are organic, and in many cases go beyond organic, without the need of a label or seal.
First, let’s look at the U.S Department of Agriculture’s organic certification process. There are five main steps that must be met found on the USDA’s website:
- The certifying agent reviews the application to verify that practices comply with USDA organic regulations.
- An inspector conducts an on-site inspection of the applicant’s operation.
- The certifying agent reviews the application and the inspector’s report to determine if the applicant complies with the USDA organic regulations.
- The certifying agent issues organic certificate.
This process can be very time consuming which discourages small urban farmers from wanting to obtain the certification. In addition to these steps, there are various costs associated with them such as application fees, an annual renewal fee, inspection fees, etc. that may not always be worth it for these farms.
Thus, for many urban farms the cost and process involved for obtaining the USDA organic seal may not be worth the cost and effort associated with it. This occurrence is not unique to Southern California urban farms. In an article titled, “For Many Small Farmers, Being Certified ‘Organic’ Isn’t Worth the Trouble”, B&B farms in New Jersey states that they don’t feel the need for the organic certification due to consumer trust and support. They also mention the troublesome duty of daily paperwork associated with having an organic certification that was not feasible long-term.
While small urban farms who make less than $5000 a year are considered to be exempt from the certification process, they must still go through the certification process if they wish to use the USDA label. Furthermore, in regards to using the term “organic” to market produce, farmers can only use the term “organic” if they are meeting USDA requirements under the National Organic Program (NOP). According to the Division of Agriculture’s publication, “Organic Certification Process”, at the University of Arkansas,”The NOP regulations allow small producers and handlers who follow the organic regulations on production and handling to sell their products as organic without being certified”. Yet for many consumers the organic seal represents a more ecological, nutritional, and healthy choice that establishes trust, faith, and support for those products with the official USDA seal. In spite of this farms and gardens have still been successful in providing “organic” produce to their communities. Rather than simply taking on a seal, these farms have gone beyond organic by adopting many of the organic growing regulations but without using any synthetic chemical fertilizers or pesticides in the growing process. For example, Huerta del Valle community garden ( https://www.huertadelvalle.org/ ) and Amy’s Farm ( https://www.amysfarm.com/ ) in Ontario, CA go beyond organic by using the term “chemical free” and thus gain consumer trust and support through a much more transparent method of farming. While the National Organic Program allows certain chemicals to be applied in organic farms as seen under the list of allowed and prohibited substances, these chemical-free farms do not use any synthetic chemicals. Some other organic and/or chemical-free gardens and farms that do not have the USDA organic seal near Cal Poly Pomona include The Root 66 garden in Rancho Cucamonga, CA (https://theroot66garden.org/) , Growing roots in Pomona, CA (https://wearegrowingroots.org/) , and Buena Vista Community garden in Pomona, CA.
Although currently these farms do not have an organic certification it is possible that as they continue to grow and progress, they may strive to be certified organic.
Annabelle Smith, K. “For Many Small Farmers, Being Certified ‘Organic’ Isn’t Worth the Trouble.” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, 13 Aug. 2014, www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-08-13/for-many-small-farmers-being-certified-organic-isn-t-worth-the-trouble
“Becoming a Certified Operation.” Becoming a Certified Operation | Agricultural Marketing Service, U.S Department of Agriculture , www.ams.usda.gov/services/organic-certification/becoming-certified.
Do I Need To Be Certified Organic? U.S Department of Agriculture , www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/DoINeedTobeCertifiedOrganicFactSheet.pdf
“Electronic Code of Federal Regulations.” Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (ECFR), U.S Government Publishing Office, www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr
Rainey, Ronald, et al. Organic Certification Process. University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture , www.uaex.edu/publications/pdf/FSA-41.pdf.