Part of the USDA Organic Certification rules is that farms can be inspected at any time. This is to ensure that they are meeting all the National Organic Standards Board’s rules and regulations. All farms get an annual surprise inspection by their certifying agency. It truly is a surprise. We have never been inspected in the same month.
We got our “Surprise, you are going to be inspected” call recently and yesterday the inspector came out to review our paper work and make sure EVERYTHING on the farm was in compliance. The inspectors don’t give you much notice, usually a few days. It is enough to rearrange any plans you had (if you were going to be off the farm), but not enough time to “cover up” any mistakes. If a farm was cheating, they will be caught. Being inspected is serious business. The inspectors don’t care if you are in the middle of a (now a week late) hay harvest like we were or if you are trying to get crops planted or harvested. When the inspector comes you stop what you are doing.
Unlike our Grade A milk inspection, where the inspector comes, does his work and leaves without speaking with us, we need to be with the inspector during the organic inspection. She tours our farm, looks in barns and holding areas, views our pastures and fields, inspects all medications we are using, and more. After the visual inspection, she sits down with (usually) Tim, since he does the paperwork, and reviews ALL our organic certification paperwork. This includes pasture and housing records, manure application records, field planting and harvest records, animal health records, etc. The whole process yesterday took about four hours.
We are always on edge right before an inspection. It is not that we doing anything wrong, but it is like the nervousness you get before a big exam at school. There is always the chance that we interrupted the rules wrong or that the rules changed and we were unaware. We are in close contact with our certifying agency, but there is always the “what ifs.”
Often organic farms get a bad rap that we are some how “cheating” the system. I think that if anyone saw how thorough our paperwork has to be or how intense our surprise inspections were, they would not question if we were following the regulations.
Well, we passed the inspection with flying colors. Everything we are doing is within the rules and regulations. We can continue to produce milk for you and your family under the organic label.
If you ever have any questions on this process please let us know. You can email us or leave a comment. We are happy to answer your questions.
Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy. We are proud Organic Valley farmer members and sell our milk under that label. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more, www.zweberfarms.com. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitterand YouTube.