The process for organic certification takes approximately 6-8 weeks (on average) from the time we receive your completed application and certification fee payment. This time frame may vary depending on the complexity, location, time of year, and your ability to demonstrate compliance with regulations at the time of inspection. To assess your eligibility prior to contacting the VOF office, please refer to our current Certification Guidelines Book.
Step 1 - Application
All operations applying for organic certification must fill out and submit a completed application (organic system plan) and certification fee. We must receive an initial payment of at least half of your total annual certification fee before we process your application (full payment for new applicants is due within 120 days' receipt of your application). New applicants may submit on a rolling basis but there must be time to inspect your products while they are in production. Products cannot be certified retroactively (post-harvest). Continuing applicants must submit on VOF's deadline schedule and must also provide at least half of your total annual certification fee to be processed (full payment for continuing applicants is due within 120 days following the due date). After the application has been received, the VOF staff will do an initial review and send you a letter verifying the application is complete. It will be noted if additional paperwork is required (records, fees due, etc.).
Step 2 - Inspection
A trained inspector will contact you to arrange an on-site audit of your productions and records. The inspector will verify your application is an accurate description of organic standards compliance and that it matches what you are doing in practice. They will summarize their findings in a report. Inspection time varies depending on size, location, and complexity. For applicants who have seasonal production (i.e. greenhouses or maple syrup), the inspection will be scheduled at a time to view the operation while in production. Note that inspectors are required to visit every production area (including fields, sugarbushes, barns, greenhouses, and relevant facilities), and a knowledgeable representative of your operation should be present to answer your inspector's questions for the duration of the inspection, so be sure to schedule your day accordingly.
Step 3 - Certification
The Certification Staff will review the farm/facility inspection report. You will receive notification of the certification decision and your organic certificate (if applicable) within approximately two months of your inspection visit. New producers are evaluated by the Review Committee after certification has been granted by the Administrator. Renewal applicants maintain their certification unless their annual inspection and review shows reason for suspension or revocation or unless the producer surrenders their certification. Unannounced inspection visits may be made at the discretion of the Review Committee.
Step 4 - Resolution
You will receive a notification of the certification decision that may include conditions for continued certification. This may note specific items that require clarification or correction that are due to the office within 60 days or at your next annual inspection. Failure to respond to conditions in your decision letter in the time frame indicated may jeopardize your certification status.
Step 5 - Cost Share Reimbursement
The Agricultural Management Assistance Program helps our certified organic producers afford the expense of organic certification. Organic operations may be reimbursed for up to 75% of eligible certification costs; not to exceed $750 per certification scope. Reimbursement applications will be provided to all certified producers whose certification fees are paid in full, usually beginning in June.
Step 6 - Continuation
Producers must update their applications and submit certification fees annually according to the VOF deadline schedule to continue certification. You will be inspected every year and will receive a new decision letter every year as well.