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Food Alliance Certification an Example from the West Coast

Farm Business Management Update, August - September 2007

By Gordon Groover (, Extension Economist, Farm Management, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech

I had the opportunity to visit a few farms in Oregon’s Willamette Valley while attending the American Agricultural Economics Association meetings.  We got to see four agricultural businesses: 1) a fully intergraded farm selling canned and frozen fruits vegetables wholesale to grocery stores and purees for other uses like baby food; 2) a small vineyard and winery; 3) a hazel nut, cherry, and hops farm; and 4) a pot-in-pot nursery with around 200 acres in production.  One of the most interesting things that I picked up on was that the Northwest has a third-party certification program administered under a nonprofit organization called the “Food Alliance.”  The Food Alliance certifies farms, ranches, and processor for a full range of sustainability from human resource management to wildlife habitat.  This program is independent of nationally recognized standards, like organic certification, yet they take a more holistic view of the farm.  In contrast to organic, Food Alliance certified farms can use chemicals and antibiotics.  Yet the farms must practice integrated pest management (IPM) using a wide range of natural pest control methods such as beneficial insects, careful weather monitoring, scouting, and the least toxic pesticides only when natural methods don’t work.  In a similar vain, livestock are not given hormones or antibiotics to stimulate growth but antibiotics can be used to treat sick animals.  Also farms must be certified on their human resource management to create a work environment with open communication about workplace safety and job satisfaction, with incentives and opportunities for development of employee skills.  Food Alliance considers quality of life issues for farm workers and their communities.  Finally, farms must address their impact on wildlife and provide for improved habitat.  From my view as a management person, the last statement of the certification goals is that farms must have defined goals (in all these areas), a plan to achieve each goal, and report to the certifier their progress and how they will reach new levels of sustainability.  If anyone is interested in learning more about the Food Alliance certification program, take a look their web site


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