20 participants from Atlantic Canada participated in PEI’s International Organic Inspector’s Association’s (IOIA) Inspector Training held April 13-19 at Slemon Park in Summerside.
‘We make sure organic is really organic,” said Monique Scholtz, the IOIA course instructor.
This is no simple process.
A certified organic inspector represents the eyes and ears of the Certification Agency. Organic inspectors are NOT consultants and they can’t give any specific advice. They are also not the decision-makers; the final decision concerning whether or not a farm is eligible for certification is up to the Certification Agency. S/he is responsible for ensuring that farmers who want to be certified are meeting the new Canadian Organic Standard. They are also responsible for identifying organic control points and risks for any given farm.
To name a few examples, an inspector is looking to ensure that the farmer inspected is not using any prohibited substances (sewage sludge, chemical fertilizers), that there is no chance of commingling with non-organic products (products are packaged and sold separately), and that farms are meeting the minimum buffer zone requirements (8 metres or an effective permanent hedgerow). Organic Inspectors also have to make sure that the farmer’s audit trail makes sense. For example, “Does this farm’s seed purchases match their sales records?” Or, “What inputs were used on this particular field?”
As you can gather, it’s pretty involved. Likewise, the organic inspector training was intense, and all of the participants’ brains were full of new information about organic production. I bet that every one of the 20 participants drove away from the training through PEI’s picturesque farming landscapes thinking to themselves, “Is that an appropriate buffer zone?” And, “What are the risks on that farm?” They’ll never look at farming quite the same again.
As a result of this training Atlantic Canada will have some new, thoroughly trained organic inspectors for the 2009 season – be sure to welcome them onto the arduous path of inspections with a smile!