When it comes to growing, organic certification, and supporting local operators, Cara Nunn could be considered an expert. She has also seen many changes over her 20-year career in the organic industry.
Cara is the Certification Coordinator for the North Okanagan Organics Association (NOOA) and the Similkameen Okanagan Organic Producers Association (SOOPA).
“My interest in growing began at a very young age as a child raised on a market garden in the Lake District of the Okanagan,” says Cara, who has a professional background in biogeography and experience working as a Managing Agrologist in the ginseng industry.
Cara started working with NOOA in 1997 and later expanded her work to include SOOPA. Now, nearly 23 years later, Cara continues to support organic growers and operators. Most recently, Cara has been helping her operators with the switch to iCertify, COABC’s newly launched online organic certification and renewal system. At the same time, she has been learning new skills and processes related to the administration of the online program.
“The system has come together better than I could have asked for,” says Cara. Having participated in the initial system development as well as many system demos, feedback gathering sessions, and testing, Cara played an active role in the project. “I really appreciate the input we had in developing the questions and format,” she says.
“The system is very robust and extremely capable,” says Cara. She acknowledges that at times, it can be a bit daunting, but “the iCertify Technical Advisor has been invaluable in getting answers and finding how to navigate the system.”
Regardless of any challenges related to learning a new system, she says the move to online certification is important. “I see the biggest benefit being an integrated location for all operator information: files, emails, communications, uploads, reports. Everything—chronological and orderly!”
“Record management has been heading this way for decades,” says Cara. “And the benefits go beyond the certification bodies.”
“The ability to provide details about our industry to government and funding bodies will provide a stronger voice for organics. It is also important for ourselves to have an integrated, clear system to verify integrity of organics to our own members and within our industry.”
Looking ahead, Cara is anticipating the launch of a new feature in iCertify: a database of approved inputs that will become available this summer. This database will be managed under the COABC umbrella of certification bodies and will be accessible to COABC members.
“To be able to offer an ongoing list of approved inputs and products throughout the community and have it accessible to our producers will keep the knowledge flowing,” says Cara. “It will also streamline the time involved in verifying products that may have already been looked at by another certification body.”
“Pooling resources and building community is a strength of the BC Certified Organic Program that I am happy to support.”
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: Cara Nunn building her new greenhouse. Credit: Maia Nunn