Tomorrow will be our annual organic inspection from CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers.) That’s what’s on my mind, so guess what? That’s going to be the subject of today’s newsletter! Woo Hoo!
CCOF is the oldest certifier in the US. It’s organized around regional chapters where farmers and ranchers come together to share information, camaraderie, and purpose. Back in the day when we started, to save money, farmers from the same chapter inspected each other.
WHAT! Uncle Vern, isn’t that like the fox guarding the hen house? Actually, I think it was better because no one cares more about the integrity of the organic label than the organic farmer; our livelihood depends on it. And no one knows more about what he’s looking at than another farmer. And when another farmer took a day out of his busy life to invest in a neighbor’s success—and vice versa—there was unity of purpose. Alas, the good ol’ days…
Wait, there’s more. I think there was a much greater emphasis on how you farmed versus today’s how you kept your paperwork but now I really have regressed.
So tomorrow should take 10-12 hours (the longest was 14) We’ll start in the office. When any farmer applies anything to his farm, he has to have been directed to do so by a licensed PCA (Pest Control Adviser). It’s like getting a prescription from a doctor. Then when he applies it, he has to report that application to the county. Time of day, wind direction, site #… Then with organic, those reports have to jibe with our list of organically approved materials.
Once the inspector is satisfied that this is all in order, we go out to the packing shed for a while. She will hike around the facility reviewing processes, procedures, and logs. Everything we do is logged and signed as to time and process. Remember how last week we talked about how the farmer delivers to the packer who hands it to cold storage who ships it to the store who purchased it from sales. Each of those entities accepts organic responsibility and there is paperwork to verify the transfers. Our inspector reviews all of this by picking some random dates and following that trail. Example: on May 17th, you packed fruit for 5 farmers, show me their organic certificates, proof of deliveries and transfers; you get it.
When that’s all happy, we go over to the kitchen to review all the ingredients in all the recipes, certificates for same, batch logs, county and state permissions, and finally spend a few minutes in the kitchen and freezer.
When all of this is done, we finally climb in the truck to visit the farm. Green grass is on the floor of organic orchards. It really is pretty this time of year in a pent-up, swollen bud, expectant mom sort of way. I wish we could start the day with the farm; I think everything else would be more relaxed than the proscribed game of gotcha we have to play.
But out on the farm, everything always makes sense, grounded, balanced…not one tree is the least bit troubled. Eat healthy!