PCO’s Mission Is:
To assure the integrity of organic agricultural products through education, inspection, and certification of growers, processors and handlers. PCO provides services to operations based in Pennsylvania, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO) is a USDA-accredited organic certifying agency that educates and certifies growers, processors and handlers of organic crops, wild crops, livestock and livestock products in Pennsylvania and adjoining states. PCO is also accredited under International Standards Organization (ISO) Guide 65.
Toward This Goal, PCO Will:
Maintain an organic certification program to educate members on the requirements for producing products in accordance with applicable laws:
- Provide annual independent third-party inspections of growers, processors and handlers of organic products;
- Develop, sponsor and support educational activities for growers, producers and consumers that promote learning, understanding and awareness of organic agriculture;
- Provide support relevant to organic certification through referrals to volunteer mentors and/or other nonprofit educational and research organizations;
- Certify organic growers, processors, and handlers meeting the standards and requirements of PCO and the USDA National Organic Program regulations.
Background of Pennsylvania Certified Organic:
In 1985, a group of organic farmers in the Lancaster County area formed a Pennsylvania chapter of the Organic Crop Improvement Association. The Pennsylvania chapter performed certification services for its members for about 15 years. In 1997, believing that a Pennsylvania-based organization would better serve the needs of our state’s organic community, some chapters members incorporated as a non-profit organization named Pennsylvania Certified Organic.
PCO started out with 27 members and by the end of that first year had certified 54 crops and livestock farms. In 1998 the organization expanded to include dairy. Over the years, PCO added certification services for processing, handling, distribution, brokering, mushrooms, maple products, poultry and more. In 2004, PCO certified about 315 operations based in Pennsylvania. That same year it decided to offer certification services to operations in adjoining states, including Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia. By 2010, PCO certified 525 operations and 117 contracted operations and expanded to serve Washington D.C., Virginia and North Carolina.
PCO’s office is located in Spring Mills, Pennsylvania in Centre County. Since 1997, PCO’s certification team has grown from one employee to its’ current size of 17 staff and 22 inspectors. In one way or another, all are connected to organic production: some are organic farmers or have worked on a farm, some are trained organic inspectors, and some have an academic background in agriculture.
Services we provide:
- We develop and distribute information and materials related to organic certification.
- We plan and present seminars and workshops on the organic certification process and standards.
- We produce publications, forms and documents needed for the certification process.
- We provide referrals to nonprofit educational and research organizations.
- We coordinate a mentoring program through which volunteers agree to answer questions about organic production. Volunteer mentors are usually PCO-certified producers, processors or handlers and cannot be PCO inspectors or staff.
- We provide basic information on operations we certify (name, contact information, organic products).
- We publish a quarterly newsletter, which includes updates to organic standards, educational articles and market information.
- We send email notices about information relevant to organic certification.
Services we do not provide:
- We do not provide consultation on overcoming identified barriers to certification as prohibited by CFR 205.501 (a) (11)iv.
- We do not provide individual counseling on organic production.
- We do not provide referrals to commercial providers of products.
- We do not release confidential information as described in 7 CFR 205.501(a)(10).
- We do not provide certification services to operations that are not based in the states listed at the top of this page.