Guest opinion: Food for thought from the asparagus field

By Sarah Harrison

We are passionate people.

Passionate about life, family and farming — certified organic farming, specifically. Our farm is coming up on its 20th year as certified.

Many people ask us, “Why bother with certification?” during our peak season in the spring. I can’t tell you the number of people who come to our farm and tell us, “Well I buy organic products from Jane Farmer down the road, she isn’t certified but she follows all the rules. I trust her.” This statement makes me cringe, and leads me into a passionate speech about the importance of certification.

I usually ask people, “Do you trust your doctor? Would you trust her as much if there wasn’t a degree from med school in her office? Would you take her word just because she is ‘nice’?” No!

That is how we feel about those who make the organic claim but are not certified. You may be nice, but if you aren’t certified, you’re not organic. We need change in Ontario. We need protection from uncertified claims.

When producers claim to be organic, consumers must be aware that unless they are buying from a certified producer the products they are paying a premium for have not been vetted by a third party. The consumer is taking a risk in trusting that the organic claim is valid. That risk is eliminated when you buy from a certified producer; you know exactly what you getting when buying certified.

Beyond the concern that the consumer may be misled, there is the business case to consider for the importance of regulating the organic claim. For those of us who are certified, who pay the fees, do the paperwork, keep the records and follow all the rules, that costs money and time — lots of time. We have to compete on price points with growers who make the claim but don’t have the expenses invested that certified growers do. This imbalance undermines the entire organic industry, making it more difficult for those who follow the rules and standards to continue doing so.

Your partners in certification,

Sarah and Barry Harrison

Mazak Farms

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