Organic Certification for Farms in Oahu: What You Need to Know

Organic farming is a method of cultivating crops and raising livestock without the use of synthetic inputs such as chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and antibiotics. It is a way of producing food that is healthier for both the environment and consumers. Organic certification is a guarantee that products marketed as certified organic have been grown according to standards previously approved and established by the certification agency. In the past, private organizations were relied on to set standards and certify organic farmers.

Nowadays, several states have organic programs with minimum standards that all producers must meet to market their products as certified organic. The Departments of Agriculture in these states are directly responsible for certifying farmers or accrediting certifying agents whose standards meet those established by the state. Organic farming isn't just about growing without chemicals. Organic producers focus on using techniques such as crop rotation, proper spacing between plants, incorporating organic matter into the soil, and using biological controls to promote optimal plant growth and minimize pest problems. Applying organic pesticides is considered a last resort and is used sparingly.

All agricultural systems alter the natural environment to some extent; organic agriculture aims to minimize this alteration and improve natural biological cycles. Organic farmers emphasize the importance of healthy soil to promote a diverse biological population, including earthworms and microorganisms, such as fungi and bacteria, that are beneficial to plants. While many people involved in organic agriculture feel that agricultural research has been limited to focusing on the development of agrochemicals, organic agriculture is not a movement against scientific progress or development. In fact, organic agriculture has benefited and will continue to benefit from modern agricultural research in areas such as plant breeding, crop physiology and nutrition, soil fertility and biological control. In addition, the scientific community's appreciation for alternative agricultural methods continues to grow, as researchers work to increase understanding of the many interactions that exist in the agroecosystem. The Organic Food Production Act of 1990 became law in 1993 and gave the USDA the responsibility and authority to develop national standards and regulations for organically produced agricultural products.

Once developed and implemented, these standards would serve as a minimum requirement for anyone wanting to market products as organic in the U. S. UU. In December 1997, the National Organic Program (USDA) released its proposed rules and regulations for a public comment period. The Hawaii Organic Agriculture Association (HOFA) and the Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) are two of the organizations that certify organic farmers here in Hawaii.

This collection of guidance documents, policy notes, and instructions aims to clarify policies and to help those who own, manage, or certify organic operations to comply with USDA organic regulations. A conventional producer who wishes to obtain certification must use organic methods for one year before being eligible for transitional organic certification and is eligible for full organic certification after three years of organic production. The Organic and Transitional Education Certification Program (OTECP) and the Organic Certification Cost Sharing Program (OCCSP) of the Department of Agriculture (USDA), which help producers and handlers cover the cost of organic certification, along with other related expenses. Organic certification verifies that your farm or handling facility located anywhere in the world complies with USDA organic regulations and allows you to sell, label and represent your products as organic. USDA Organic Regulation 7 CFR Section 205 includes all USDA organic standards, including prohibited practices, requirements, and the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Materials. In Oahu, Kaumana is a certified 25-acre organic farm operating in Waianae since 1978. However, due to growing consumer interest and competition from stores specializing in organics, supermarkets have become the fastest-growing outlet for organic food, including fresh produce.


Organic certification is an important step for any farm looking to market their products as certified organic. It ensures that products are grown according to established standards set by certifying agencies.

In Oahu there are several organizations that can certify farms such as HOFA and OCIA. The USDA also offers programs such as OTECP and OCCSP which help producers cover the cost of certification.

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