What is organic farming? Why be certified?

Organic Transparency

What is organic farming? Why be certified?
Posted on September 22nd 2014 by Maddie

We’re celebrating this year’s Organic Week September 20th to 28th. In our Organics 101 entry we delved into the legal definition of organic, how our certification works and what that entails.

Kicking Horse Coffee works to meet strict standards assuring all our coffee is organic. Organic certification is the public’s assurance that products have been grown and handled according to strict procedures without persistent toxic chemical inputs.

There still seem to be many misconceptions over what being Organic means. What is organic farming? Why be certified?

Organic farming is more than doing nothing

‘Organic by default’ or ‘passive cultivation’ are two terms for simply avoiding pesticides and chemicals. What we consider organic farming is much more than this. Our coffee has added value, because it has been actively managed.  Holistic production management through natural compost, pruning, vermiculture, irrigation, biological pest controls, and other careful methods.

The National Organic Standards Board in the U.S. uses the following definition,

“Organic agricultural is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity.”

One of Organic farming’s primary objectives is sustainability. Farmers who grow coffee organically use renewable resources. Enhancing the fertility of the soil by composting, mulching, and investing in shade regulation. Passive cultivation will deplete the soil in the long term. Organic farming focuses on building healthy soils, recognizing that soil is the foundation of the food chain.


Any product that has an Organic certification must be accountable to inspections and of course very strict guidelines, outlined here.

As well, if changing from conventional farming, a conversion period of three years must take place before any product can be sold Certified Organic. Within this period their are regular inspections.

Not only just the farm, but all other steps in the production chain have to be certified as well. For coffee this can mean, processing at source, storage, transport, export processing, shipping, export, import, roasting, packaging, distribution and retailing.

There is an incredible amount of work done to ensure traceability and transparency. Unfortunately, due to increased environmental and health awareness, consumers are exposed to companies making false or exaggerated sustainable claims on their products. This is called greenwashing.

The danger of greenwashing is that it undermines consumer confidence. Producing cynical buyers, only makes it tougher for those who are actually certified. But, that’s the ticket, certification. It makes us accountable. Unlike ambiguous terms such as eco-friendly, natural, and many others. Organic has a legal definition, it can’t just be attached to any product.

Purchasing wisely and making conscious decisions is super important as consumers. We all can make a difference. Even the smallest amount counts.