Originally started in Iwaki, Japan, Umi Nami Farm moved to Metchosin on southern Vancouver Island in 1996. The farm has been certified organic for more than 20 years.
Umi Nami Farm specializes in year-round production of Japanese vegetables and some Asian and Western produce. They use both unheated greenhouses (high tunnels) and outdoor fields to achieve year-round growing, and their small orchard supplies apples, pears, and plums.
As they prepared to do their 2020 organic certification renewal, Heather Ramsay from Umi Nami Farm says they were pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to use iCertify, COABC’s new online organic certification system.
“We weren’t so enthusiastic about the switch to an online system at first, but after seeing how easy it is to use, we’re liking it,” says Heather. “It serves as both an upload platform and a checklist for what we need to provide. It was nice having standardized premade records to make it easy to know what we do and don’t need to report.”
According to Heather, one of the biggest benefits of iCertify is that by helping growers to standardize their reporting, the work of reviewing all the applications—whether renewal or first-time—gets easier for the certifying body. This, in turn, helps keep costs low.
“As a grower, I also find it easier not having to wonder how much detail to go into,” says Heather. “The online system asks the questions I need to answer and provides forms to capture the information we need to record. I like that we have the option of photographing or scanning hand-written records and then uploading the electronic image.”
From Heather’s point of view as an organic farmer and organic farming advocate, iCertify also plays a larger role in the organic movement.
“Shifting to the online system makes sense to keep up with the times and to take ourselves seriously as a movement and as business owners,” says Heather.
“The organic movement has really grown. We expect more of our farms now than in the earlier years of the organic movement. And since BC’s mandatory organic regulations came into effect in 2018, we need to step up to the plate with documentation and traceability. A standardized online system is only one small part of the bigger picture, but it helps us in our efforts to efficiently function as the growing movement and robust businesses that we are.”
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: An aerial view of Umi Nami Farm in Metchosin. Credit: Umi Nami Farm