Helping Farmers Go Organic

In 2017, Sandra Higareda of Higareda Family Farms was a farmer in need of a little support.  You’ve probably picked up a beautiful bunch of her cilantro or basil at the BriarPatch Food Coop.   You know the stuff- glistening with dewdrops, so fragrant you can’t help but take a big whiff before it goes into your cart.  Sandra knows how to grow good food, that’s for sure.  But owning and operating a farm business demands a litany of skillsets other than crop production-  book-keeper, accountant, CFO, HR manager, office administrator, and director of marketing, just to name a few. 

Sandra was one of the farmers who jumped at the chance to attend the EcoFarm Conference on a full scholarship from the BriarPatch Food Coop.  Her experience at the conference inspired her to take her farm business more seriously and she set a goal to certify her farm Organic.   She knew it would make her farm products more competitive and would secure a higher price in the marketplace, but the paperwork, cost, and process felt out of reach.  In her own words, Sandra said I was petrified of the process of filling out the application. I saw it to be so daunting.”

Here’s where Sierra Harvest’s Farm Institute comes in.

Sandra attended Farm Biz – a business management class designed for farmers and offered every winter by the Farm Institute.  During class, she learned how to track and record the numbers needed to make smart decisions about what and how much to grow each year – the very same records necessary for Organic certification.   Here’s what Sandra said about Farm Biz:  “Before attending the class I have been running my small farm business with the “Fly By the Seat of Your Pants” method… The class has motivated me to see the benefit of organization and efficiency while trying to grow as a farm business.  I highly recommend anyone wanting to grow as a farmer attend the Farm Biz class.  Because of this class I have moved forward to becoming a certified organic farm!”

Next, Sandra enrolled in Sierra Harvest’s Farm Institute Organic Certification Intensive.  This three-part course walked Sandra through each step of becoming an Organic farm, from record-keeping, to creating an Organic Site Plan, to understanding cost-share programs.  It was led by two local certification experts and participants were also able to hear about the process from already certified Organic farmers here in the community.   Sandra shared, “The class eased all my fears, uncertainties, and insecurities about the unknown application process.  Absolutely a must for anyone who wants to pursue farming. It is a real privilege to have the support and amazing help that Sierra Harvest provides.”

We are so very happy to report that Sandra has submitted a near-perfect application to California Certified Organic Farmers and is awaiting her initial farm audit.  If all goes well, and we are confident that it will, the next time you pick up one of those gorgeous bunches of cilantro at the BriarPatch Coop, it will be, officially, Organic.