“I was on the verge of losing my farm.” These words haunted Maria Narez of Narez Organic Vegetables as she navigated the complexities of becoming certified organic. To earn organic certification, farmers cannot apply prohibited synthetic pesticides to the land for three years prior to their first organic harvest. Transitioning farmers must make significant investments to adopt organic practices, but cannot sell under the organic label during the first three years. For Maria, this meant purchasing new equipment on top of certification costs and language barriers that already made transition challenging.
But transitioning to organic was never a question for Maria. She is passionate about ecological methods like cover cropping, crop rotation, and mulching to build soil health and manage pests, weeds, and diseases. She focuses on growing food that is healthy for our communities, and especially our kids. While Maria had already chosen to pursue organic certification, the three-year transition period was a financially and emotionally draining time. In the end, a grant from CCOF Foundation made Maria’s journey to organic certification possible.
To expand access to organic certification for farmers like Maria, CCOF is partnering with Assembly member Brian Maienschein to pass legislation (AB 2499) in California that creates an Organic Transition Program. Socially disadvantaged farmers with limited resources would receive direct assistance to adopt organic practices and offset the risk during the transition period. The Organic Transition Program also invests in technical assistance specific to organic, such as financial and farm planning and mentorship by seasoned organic farmers.
CCOF, Maria, partner organizations, and farmers shared our support for AB 2499 last week in a series of virtual meetings with legislators. We advocated for an Organic Transition Program that removes barriers to entry for farmers who manage their businesses on thinner margins and cannot assume more risk, as well as for farmers of color who have faced historical and current discrimination that limits access to resources and information.
CCOF is expanding opportunity for all farmers by making organic certification an accessible option. We also support AB 2499 because it requires a statewide market analysis of the organic sector to help current and future farmers to understand the market landscape. We know ultimate success for transitioning farmers depends on ready markets for organic products, which is why CCOF is advocating for organic in California’s Farm to School Program.
To learn more about AB 2499 and CCOF’s work to expand access to organic certification, please email Rebekah Weber at firstname.lastname@example.org.