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iCertify

First Generation Farmers Find Ease with iCertify Renewal

in Current Issue/Grow Organic/Organic Community/Organic Standards/Spring 2020/Tools & Techniques

Amy Lobb & Calum Oliver, Makoha Farm

Corinne Impey

Makoha Farm is owned and operated by Amy and Calum, who began their farming journey in 2019 on 0.6 acres of leased land on Cordova Bay Ridge in Saanich, BC.At Makoha Farm, they want their love of good food to come across in what they grow: providing tasty, healthy, and top-quality produce. They grow a diversity of vegetable crops and have quickly fallen in love with growing flowers for cut arrangements.

Currently at the start of their second year of farming, Mahoka Farm is part of Haliburton Community Organic Farm, a certified organic incubator farm in Saanich, BC.

As they geared up for their 2020 organic renewal with Islands Organic Producers Association earlier this year, they were looking forward to trying iCertify, COABC’s new online organic certification system.

Amy with a harvest of leeks. Credit: Kristina Coleman

“iCertify was quite simple to use when it came time to do our renewal,” says Amy. “The webinar preview and in-person training sessions were helpful and informative and made the process undaunting. To be honest, I feel that even if I hadn’t done the initial training before starting my renewal I wouldn’t have had any issues.” In particular, Amy found the clear and simple layout easy to follow.

“Also, having the percentage complete bars for each section is a nice touch visually, quickly letting you know if you missed something or giving you peace of mind that you’re almost done.”

Amy looks forward to future renewals where the process will be even more streamlined now that everything lives in iCertify. “It will be interesting to see how everything goes during next year’s renewal,” says Amy. “It should save us time in the future, only needing to update information that may have changed for our operation and uploading our annual forms.”

Time saved doing administration work means more time spent focused on farming. For 2020, Makoha has launched their first flower CSA subscription, which includes a small veggie box add-on option.

“We can’t wait to share this with the community. As the season begins in this world of uncertainty, we’re also happy to be able to still provide the local community with food for their homes. No matter what happens, we will be here growing food and offering it to the public.”


Funding for this project has been provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The program is delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC.

Feature image: Amy and Calum of Makoha Farm. Credit: Amy Lobb

Off-grid organic farm shifts to iCertify: Ashala of Sapo Bravo Organics

in COABC Blog

Tucked into the wilderness of the Fraser River Canyon, water flows from a glacial fed creek on Ashala’s off-grid five acre organic farm, Sapo Bravo Organics.

Living with a palpable link to the land, Ashala applies low energy use practices and sustainable farming techniques that minimize the dependence on machinery in the garden. She has fruit trees on half of her land and grows heat-loving ground crops on the rest.

With 2020 marking her fifth year of farming, Ashala was keen to try COABC’s new online organic certification system, iCertify, to do her annual renewal. Certified through North Okanagan Organic Association (NOOA), Ashala started the new process in January.

“My experience with iCertify was very positive, though I am very glad I went to the training session provided to be able to ask a human the questions I had,” says Ashala.

“iCertify seems to be more in depth than my previous certification application and I wanted to make sure I was providing all necessary information. iCertify is more complex for sure, but easy to work through all the stages. I liked that I could save the application/renewal and go back and work on it in pieces.”

Ashala of Sapo Bravo Organics

Some of the greatest benefits, says Ashala are less paper and more consistency in reporting overall. It’s also creating a stronger link between farmers.

“I can now talk to other farmers who are certified with different providers about the application process and we are talking about the same thing,” says Ashala.

Because of the shift to an online system, Ashala also says there could be benefits to the industry as a whole.

“I believe organic certification will be taken more seriously and it will enable farmers to be more organized in their reporting and accountability.”

And now, with her renewal application submitted, Ashala can get back to focusing on the farm season ahead.

You can find Sapo Bravo Organics produce at Trout Lake Farmer’s Market and in fine Vancouver restaurants from July until October.

Funding for this project has been provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The program is delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC.

 

iCertify, COABC’s Online Organic Certification System, is now live

in COABC Blog

After much hard work and contributions from many COABC members, we are excited to announce that iCertify, COABC’s new online organic certification system, is now live!

Designed to support organic operators and certifiers in BC, iCertify is an innovative province-wide online tool for organic certification. This user-friendly, secure online system streamlines the organic certification process, making it easier to apply for a new certification or submit an annual renewal.

A true team effort involving operators, verification officers, certification committee members, administrators, and COABC board and team members from across the province, a big thanks is due to everyone who has contributed to this project over the last few years!

To learn more about iCertify, please visit: certifiedorganic.bc.ca/icertify

Interested in using iCertify for your renewal or certification? Please contact your local certification body directly.

Looking for support using iCertify? Check out our training library: certifiedorganic.bc.ca/icertify/helplibrary.php

Funding for this project has been provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The program is delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC.

Growing into the Future of Organics

in 2020/Organic Community/Tools & Techniques/Winter 2020

Administrative Director, Islands Organic Producers Association (IOPA)

The future of organic is on everyone’s mind these days, and many conversations have circled around change. Recently, organic growers have been presented with several changes, from organic becoming a protected label to new online tools, which means we’ve all had to find time to grow (farm pun intended).

The regulation of the organic label last year has moved BC’s organic sector from a grassroots movement firmly into the realm of regulations, paper trail transparency, and auditing. Organic Certification has definitely evolved over the last 40 years. While full of positive changes, including a bigger organic sector, consumer demand for organic, and, most importantly, an ever-growing community of organic and food producers, this type of transition can be difficult for people who are conditioned to the founding philosophy of BC’s organic grassroots movement.

Although the requirement to follow these regulatory documents in detail can seem daunting and bureaucratic, we should view it as a communal commitment to do our best to identify potential areas where organic integrity may be at risk. The idea is that as an organic community, we want to continually improve our skills and products. But many changes all at once can cause ‘change fatigue,’ a sense of resignation people feel when faced with too much change, and thus result in decreased commitment.

In addition to the regulation of organic, record keeping skills have been pushed into the spotlight as the transition to digital means it is possible for every last detail to be captured and stored. Operators are being pushed to step up their game and ensure their records contain all the detail required by the regulations to ensure full transparency and accountability.

The introduction of pre-made templates for record keeping is an essential and valuable move to support producers with the demands of record keeping. These helpful, ready-to-use templates are being promoted for use by all Certifying Bodies (CBs) under the COABC umbrella.

If we can all use the same record keeping documents, it will increase consistency amongst BC’s organic producers and make the job of Certification Committees (CCs) and Verification Officers (VOs) more efficient, as they will not have to sift through various record keeping methods and formats. They will become familiar with the specific set of forms and where the information they are trying to find is located. This will also assist members if they need to transfer to a different CB, as the record trail will be the same for both CBs. Above all, record templates will help new members understand which information they are required to keep, and it means they don’t have to worry about developing their own records, while simultaneously developing their farming skills.

The online portal (iCertify) is a big change from days of handwritten documents being mailed in to CBs. Many folks have already transitioned to electronic documents over the last few years. Sending multiple files via sometimes-multiple, size-restricted emails can be time consuming and the risk is that file attachments and notes in email messages may not make it into an enterprise’s digital files. iCertify will eliminate lost files, as each document uploaded by an operator will be instantly stored securely and indefinitely on COABC’s own dedicated server, ready for retrieval by their CB administrator, CC, or VO. It means operators will also have access to all their current and previous application and renewal answers and all previously uploaded documents anytime with the click of a button. This is a future change that will initially require some training and new skills development, but in short order it is bound to make certification easier for everyone involved in the process.

With many changes in the organic sector, we must keep in our minds that our goal, as a community, is to continue to improve organics and make our processes more efficient. We cannot allow change fatigue to hold us back. Instead, we should strive to be adaptive and view future changes in organics as a continual evolution.

We want to maintain the feeling of community with our fellow organic growers, and not allow that connection to get lost in regulatory documents and feelings of scrutiny. We need to hold on to some of our past as we evolve into the future. We cannot forget that people choose to grow organically, not only as a profit seeking initiative, but because they share a belief in the values and philosophies of organic, for the health of ourselves and the world.

The beauty we must remember is that we all get to have our say in the ongoing development of the organic standards via the standards review process.

We are still a community. We are just bigger.

Stay tuned for iCertify updates!


Islands Organic Producers Association (IOPA): certifying farms on Vancouver Island and Surrounding Islands since 1990.

Funding for iCertify has been provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The program is delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC.

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