Who We Are

The Real Organic Project is a farmer-led movement created to grow people’s understanding of foundational organic values and practices. In response to the lack of enforcement of some vital USDA Organic standards to protect soil health and animal welfare, farmers rallied together to protect the integrity of organic.

What We Stand For

Greater enforcement of current organic standards Support for ethical certifiers who refuse to certify hydroponic and confinement operations as organic Farmer to farmer exchange of knowledge Organic farming is the best path toward healthier people, animals, ecosystems and communities and can “feed the world” better than chemical agriculture

What We Do

Real Organic Project runs a free whole farm “add-on” certification program to USDA organic to distinguish crops grown in healthy soils and livestock raised on well managed pastures and farms that provide worker protections.

Our Story

Our farmer-led effort was initiated to reform the National Organic Program (NOP) to safeguard the future of the organic movement. Over six years, we have certified approximately 1,100 organic farms across America. Our educational outreach includes weekly letters, annual symposia, monthly book clubs, regional educational events, and a weekly podcast.

Our boards are composed of leaders in the organic movement including over 20 current or past representatives on the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board. Our 15-member standards board convenes annually to develop rigorous “add-on” standards that emphasize “whole farm” adoption of practices that prioritize soil health, animal welfare, and worker protections. We strive to inspire a resilient and robust organic movement.

Our commitment to reforming the NOP extends beyond lobbying bureaucrats. We actively exert marketplace and political pressure for quicker and more impactful outcomes. A notable accomplishment was our exposure of the use of herbicides immediately prior to the installation of hydroponic systems. After trying to lobby for change through traditional channels, it was the public outcry from our newsletter that ultimately caused the NOP to change this policy, highlighting the power of our collective public voice.
We stand with many ethical certifiers who refuse to certify hydroponic operations. Some have faced retaliatory actions from the NOP in the form of “non-compliance” notifications. A “soil position statement” is now supported by over 60 organic organizations and has been publicly presented to the National Organic Program.

We know that this is just a start in reforming the USDA. We believe that the development of a farmer-led “add-on” standard is the most rapid way to transform the American food system. Over the last four decades, farmers have worked to create a distinctive, positive, definable, transparent, and trusted brand of “Certified Organic” in the marketplace. However, increasing corporate consolidation has created a new reality. It is becoming harder and harder for locally-based organic farmers to access markets. We are in danger of losing farms rooted in care for the soil, care for their animals, and care for their communities. Basic tenets of organic agriculture have been set aside for larger economic interests. This makes it ever more difficult for small to mid-sized farms following real organic practices to compete. We continue to lose family farms at an alarming rate.

In America, USDA-governed organic is losing its way, but if we can create real transparency in the marketplace, we will win because eaters want food grown with integrity. The global organic movement has maintained soil as the foundation of organic, while also embracing social justice and marketplace fairness. It is our goal to reunite American Organic with this world movement. One step toward this effort is a “joint venture” with Naturland, a farmer-led “add-on” organic certification recognized around the world. Naturland certifies over 140,000 small farmers and our partnership will allow us to support and unite with these real organic farmers under our “Real Organic Project” label.

As a farmer-led movement, we understand the needs of, and burdens placed on, our farming community. This is why our certification is entirely free for farmers. The kind of farming that we all want already exists, but it won’t survive and spread without transparency and active support. There are thousands of real organic farmers. There are millions of eaters who are seeking the food these farmers grow. Our mission is to unite them under the Real Organic Project label and foster a more enlightened marketplace.

It is evident that the USDA’s commitment to a genuine alternative to the conventional industry falls short. We request financial assistance from those willing to fill the void left by our government’s shortcomings in serving its citizens. With vital financial support we can make the vision of a stronger organic standard a reality. Standing together we can truly support an agriculture that heals our climate, feeds ALL people, protects workers, and insists upon higher standards for animal welfare.