Certified Organic vs. Sustainable Farms

Farms that are listed in this guide fall into three categories:

  1. They are certified organic by a USDA accredited Certifier for crops, wild crops and/or livestock
  2. They are an exempt operation with less than $5,000 organic sales annually and utilize organic practice standards as outlined in the National Organic Program (NOP)
  3. They are utilizing organic practice standards as outlined in the National Organic Program (NOP) but have chosen not to apply for formal certification.

Farms that are not certified organic by a USDA accredited Certifier must have affirmed their commitment to the NOFA/Mass Sustainability Pledge in order to be listed in the NOFA/Mass Organic and Sustainable Food Guide:

*I have raised my food without genetically modified (GM) seed, sewage sludge or irradiation.

*My land has been free from synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers (NOP prohibited substances) for at least three years.

*Organic seeds and planting stock are utilized when commercially available.

*Inputs that are used have been approved for use on certified organic farms by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI).

*I adhere to the soil fertility, nutrient management, crop rotation, crop pest, weed, and disease practice standards as outlined in the National Organic Program (NOP).

*My poultry have been fed organic or sustainable food since day 2 and have direct access to green pasture during the growing season.

*My livestock have been fed organic or sustainable food since the last trimester of gestation and have direct access to green pasture during the growing season.

*All poultry and livestock are raised without antibiotics, hormones, or synthetic parasiticides and receive either certified organic feed or feed that has been raised sustainably, as defined by the first two sentences of this pledge.

Just as a whole farm, part of a farm, or only a single crop may be certified organic, in some cases only part of a farm meets the NOFA/Mass sustainability standards. In both scenarios, we have tried as much as possible to highlight only the parts of a farm that are either certified organic or sustainable.

At NOFA/Mass, our philosophy is that the best way to understand what practices a grower uses is to talk to the farmer. When you shop at farmers’ markets, visit a farm stand or pick up your CSA share, ask questions about the grower’s operation. Get to know your farmer!