Organic Transition and Production Handbook

Organic Transition and production handbook

Compiled by Eric Soderholm,
Former Organic Transition Coordinator
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association
The development of this resource was made possible through funding from the South Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.


How to Use this Handbook

There is no recipe for transitioning to organic production and certification. Furthermore, we recognize that it can be tough for farmers to find the time to fairly evaluate the possibility of certifying their farm. In the spring and summer of 2012, CFSA conducted extensive research to identify the challenges that organic operations face in North and South Carolina. Information was gathered through online surveying, farm visits, and through interviews with farmers, certifying agents and organic inspectors. The results were used to create this handbook as a guide for those considering organics within the region.
The aim of this publication is to highlight the common pitfalls for produce farmers in organic transition and provide focused resources that address them. Our hope is that this handbook can save farmers time and connect them with the most useful information, written by experts in the field, to help them successfully navigate their organic certification process.
The handbook is organized into seven sections that correlate to the National Organic Program (NOP) regulations for crop production. Browse the links within each section to learn more about everything from the certification process to production considerations to marketing options. Whenever possible, listings of Carolina-specific resources (certifying agents, certification cost share, organic seed sources, fertility inputs, reported problem pests, wholesale opportunities, etc.) were compiled for easy reference.
We encourage your feedback on this project, contact Eric with suggestions, questions or comments.


CFSA’s Organic Transition and Production Handbook for Produce Farmers

Organic Certification

Organic Certification Cost Share Program Details for the Carolinas, Soderholm

What is Organic Certification, National Organic Program

Overview of National Organic Program Requirements, Riddle

How to Pick a Certifier, Kleese

USDA Accredited Certifying Agents that Operate in the Carolinas, Soderholm

Comparison of the Major Certification Agencies in the Carolinas, Hamilton & Soderholm (Updated 11/2014)

Organic Certification Application Template

Preparing for an Organic Inspection, Baier

Most Common Mistakes Made by Certified Crop Operators, Riddle

Organic Certification of Vegetable Operations, Riddle



NOTE: For even more great resources, including templates that you can use to calculate the profits and losses on your farm, check out our Record Keeping page!

Introduction Tips for Successful Recordkeeping, Soderholm

Organic Vegetable Operation Record Keeping Systems, Riddle

Record Keeping Form Templates for Organic Farmers, Riddle (Word .doc you can customize for your own records)

Organic Market Farm Documentation Forms, Born, Kuepper & Cone

Organic Orchard, Vineyard, and Berry Crop Documention Forms, Kuepper & Cone


Allowed and Prohibited Substances

Introduction Avoiding Contamination by Prohibited Substances, Soderholm

National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, National Organic Program

Organic Materials Compliance, Baier and Gegner

Potting Mixes for Certified Organic Production, Kuepper & Everett

Sources of Certified Organic Seed, Soderholm


Developing an Organic System Plan

Introduction Developing an Organic System Plan, Soderholm

Organic System Plan Market Farm Plan, Kuepper


Soil Fertility

Introduction: The Soil Is Your Greatest Resource, Soderholm

Soil Fertility on Organic Farms, Baldwin

How to Convert an Inorganic Fertilizer Recommendation Into an Organic One, McLaurin & Reeves

Cover Crops on Organic Farms, Baldwin & Creamer

Using Organic Nutrient Sources, Sanchez & Richard

Crop Rotation and Cover Crops, Hitt, Roos & Wynne

Crop Rotation on Organic Farms, Baldwin

Practical Nutrient Management for Organic Vegetable Crops, Schonbeck

Composting on Organic Farms, Baldwin & Greenfield

Manures for Organic Production, Kuepper

Sources of Organic Fertilizer Inputs for the Carolinas, Soderholm


Pest Management

Introduction Pest, Weed, Disease Management, Soderholm

Insect Pests

Overview of Monitoring and Identification Techniques for Insect Pests, Zehnder

Insect Management on Organic Farms, Linker, Orr & Barbercheck

Farmscaping: Making Use of Nature’s Pest Management Services. Zehnder, G.2011 eOrganic article. Available at

Top Eight Reported Insect Pests on Carolina Organic Produce Farms, NC Extension: AG 295

Squash Bug and Squash Vine Borer: Organic Controls, Adam

Flea Beetle: Organic Control Options, Kuepper

Greenhouse IPM: Sustainable Aphid Control, Greer

Stink Bug Management Using Trap Crops in Organic Farming. Mizell, R.F.2011 eOrganic article. Available at

Cucumber Beetles: Organic and Biorational Integrated Pest Management, Diver & Hinman

Colorado Potato Beetle: Organic Control Options, Kuepper


Principles of Sustainable Weed Management in Organic Cropping Systems, Schonbeck

Top Ten Reported Problem Weeds on Carolina Organic Farms, Virginia Tech Weed ID Guide


Organic Disease Management, Colucci

General Guideline for Managing Vegetable Disease Organically, McGrath

Guidelines for Managing Specific Vegetable Diseases Organically, McGrath

Downy Mildew Control in Cucurbits, Kuepper

Managing Cucurbit Powdery Mildew Organically. McGrath, M.2010 eOrganic article. Available at

Organic Management of Late Blight of Potato and Tomato (Phytophthora infestans). Stone, A. 2009 eOrganic article. Available at 

Biopesticides for Managing Plant Disease Organically, McGrath



Understanding Organic Pricing and Costs of Production, Post

Tips for Selling at Farmers Markets,  ATTRA

Tips for Selling through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA),  ATTRA

Tips for Selling to Restaurants,  ATTRA

Tips for Selling to Grocery Stores,  ATTRA

Tips for Selling to Distributors,  ATTRA

Wholesale Buyers in the Carolinas, Soderholm


Key Resources for Transitioning Farmers


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