Regenerative Organic Certification Process for the Farm

Regenerative Organic Certification Process for the Farm

Hello everyone! My name is Emma McLaren and I am the former Sustainability Intern and current Environmental Specialist at Chelan Valley Farms. I recently graduated from California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo, California with my B.S. in Environmental Management and Protection and minor in Sustainable Environments. I am passionate about ecological restoration, land conservation, and sustainable agriculture. I wanted to share a couple of projects I have been working with you, the first being the different components of Regenerative Organic Certification and how we have begun the process towards official documentation at Chelan Valley Farms.

Regenerative Organic Certification was originally founded by the Rodale Institute, Dr. Bronner’s, and Patagonia, and is overseen by the Regenerative Organic Alliance. Regenerative agriculture focuses on proactively maintaining soil and ecosystem health through various natural methods. Vegetative cover, crop rotation, minimal soil disturbance, composting, and rotational grazing are all approved regenerative tactics. Additionally, the absence of tilling and synthetic fertilizers or pesticides is essential in preserving, maintaining, and restoring optimal soil health. Regenerative Organic Certification is a combination of three pillars; soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness certifications. Within each category there are several different programs that are able to satisfy the standards of each pillar. In order to become Regenerative Organic Certified, a business must obtain one certification within each pillar. After gaining a further understanding of the specific components of Chelan Valley Farms, I was able to clearly establish the particular organizations to fulfill the Regenerative Organic Certification requirements while meeting the needs of the farm.

One of my favorite photos from my internship. And a reminder about biodiversity in a regenerative system. Part of the regenerative principle is supporting a diverse ecosystem.

In regard to soil health, the most applicable program for Chelan Valley Farms is USDA Organic certification. USDA Organic certification is among the most popular programs in the United States that allows businesses to represent their products as organic after an intensive screening and application process. In order to understand the USDA Organic standards it is essential to thoroughly analyze the National Organic Program standards. These standards include expectations regarding soil fertility, crop rotation, livestock, and general land requirements that must be met in addition to chemical restrictions. It is essential that proper records are kept regarding the fulfillment of each standard, proving the institution’s legitimacy. Although there are an extensive amount of standards to fulfill, the National Organic Program has allowed for relatively easy navigation of the various requirements. This certification can take months, or possibly years, to achieve, so I am ecstatic I was able to help Chelan Valley Farms begin their journey in achieving this badge of honor. 

The second pillar that must be fulfilled to become Regenerative Organic Certified is an animal welfare certification. Becoming animal welfare certified shows a farmers commitment to prioritizing the general health and wellbeing of the animals on their property. These standards include breeding, shelter, food and water, health management, and ranging regulations, specific to each species on the property. Chelan Valley Farms has goats and laying hens that serve as a small petting zoo for visitors on the farm. After analyzing the different programs under the animal welfare umbrella, I decided it is wise to pursue Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) certification. AWA is a program that believes in the empowerment of sustainable agriculture, aiming to support independent farmers and educate consumers on “green” behavior. Specific standards of goats and laying hens are included in the AWA standards, allowing a trouble-free process to accurately achieve the requirements. Due to the fact that Chelan Valley Farms does not butcher any of their animals, it will be a simple procedure to meet AWA requirements. Once the Steiners are confident that all standards have been satisfied, they will submit an application to the AWA website and a team member will travel to the farm to conduct an interview and general assessment. Based on my research, I expect obtaining AWA certification will be a smooth, time-efficient process. 

Sheep coming to the farm. Animals are a main component of Regenerative Farming.

The final pillar that concludes the requirements of ROC is the social fairness certification. Incorporating social fairness standards aims to create a more ethical, respectful, and positive experience in the workplace. Additionally, this certification requires businessowners to obtain legitimate licenses, supply chain requirements, and timely payment of wages. After analyzing the collective needs of Chelan Valley Farm employees, I found Fair Trade Certified (FTC) to be the best fit. This organization is committed to ensuring fair working conditions, respecting the surrounding environment, and building respectful interpersonal relations while promoting conscious consumerism. FTC has a far more interactive certification process than the other two pillars, working one-on-one with applicants to achieve each standard.

After filling out a brief survey, a representative is expected to reach out via email and begin working with the applicant to create a certification plan and start the audit process. Chelan Valley Farms has only two full-time employees in addition to a handful of seasonal part-time workers, simplifying the registration process in becoming FTC. Due to our farm being a small corporation, the process of achieving FTC seems quickly attainable once in contact with a representative. 

After all three pillars have been completed by fulfilling USDA Organic, Animal Welfare Approved, and Fair Trade Certification requirements, Chelan Valley Farms will be eligible for Regenerative Organic Certification. Although this is a lengthy process, becoming Regenerative Organic Certified will ultimately increase the quality of crops, health of animals, experience of workers, and overall economic value of Chelan Valley Farms.

Thank you for reading along. A shot of Carston and I in the zinnias.

I appreciate you taking the time to learn about what our farm is doing to maintain its environmental integrity and hope this information can be of use to you. Have a wonderful day!

– Emma

Logo Chelan Valley Farms in Manson WA