Marin Organic

Last updated
Marin Organic
Marin Organic logo.png
Type 501(c)(3) non-profit
Focus Sustainable, organic and local agriculture
200 (2009)
Key people
Peggy Smith, President of the Board of Directors
Helge Hellberg, Executive Director
7 (as of December 2009)
600 (2009)

Marin Organic is a non-profit 501(c)(3) association of organic producers headquartered in Point Reyes Station, California. Founded in 1999 with the goal of creating the first all-organic county, [1] Marin Organic staff and board work with government officials, community groups and organizations, fellow ranchers and farmers to advance the practice of sustainable, organic production. The organization has become an internationally recognized model for building economically viable, community-based local foodsheds. [2] [3]


Mission and Goals

On its official website, Marin Organic defines its mission statement as the following:

Marin Organic is a cooperative association of Marin County organic producers whose livelihood is based on a respect for nature and a sense of place. We understand the importance - ecological, social, and economic - of bringing the field closer to the table. Therefore, we are dedicated to continually improving our farming practices, promoting the ethical, creative, and patient enterprise of sustainable agriculture, and encouraging a preference for locally produced food. [4]


In 1990, in response to an announcement that the USDA would undertake a process to regulate a National Organic Program, Marin County organic farmers met to discuss the need for stringent standards and locally responsive food systems. Over the next eight years, as practitioners they developed a unique, place-based set of criteria as hallmarks of sustainable, local food production standards, and they cultivated a relationship with the Marin County Agricultural Commissioner's office with the aim of creating a county-based, local organic certifier.

In 1999, the local farmers and producers founded Marin Organic as a farmer-driven, 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization to help preserve farming as a way of life in the county. They created a forum for sharing information and best practices among members and instituted protections for Marin's wildlife and habitat. They advocated for the highest standards - to go beyond the national standards for organic and to include economic prosperity, environmental stewardship and social equity - the three pillars of sustainability.

In 2004, the organization was able to raise enough money through individual donations, foundation and government grants to hire a full-time executive director, development director and membership coordinator. [5] Soon after, the Point Reyes all organic Farmer's Market, and the Organic School Lunch program were launched. The organization's notoriety increased precipitously in November 2005, when Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visited Marin County as guests of Marin Organic. [2]

At the time of Marin Organic's founding, Marin County boasted a total of 13 certified organic producers and 400 certified organic acres. Since that time, Marin Organic has led and supported educational and farmer outreach efforts directly and indirectly resulting in the certification of nearly sixty operations and conversion of more than 20,000 acres (81 km2) from conventional agricultural production to organic production. Today, the organization's membership includes thirty-seven local, small and mid-scale organic producers. Delegates from all over the world have come to study Marin Organic as a model for sustainable, community-based agriculture. [3]

Board of directors

As of December 2009, the Marin Organic Board of Directors are: [4]


Member Support

All members of Marin Organic must either pass third-party certification in the USDA National Organic Program, or at least be registered with the Agricultural Commissioner's office as an organic operation before being considered for membership to the organization. After member applicants have been certified to the national standards, they must then pass a point system unique to Marin Organic that ranks their operations in terms of local connectedness, ethical operation, environmental stewardship, and correction of problems on the farm. This peer-review set of standards surpasses the USDA regulations and ensures that Marin Organic operations are fitted to local conditions and need.

Marketing Assistance

Marin Organic offers its members the following marketing and PR assistance: [6]
  • Sales leads, strategic alliances, use of the Marin Organic logo, a 10% discount on all farm supplies at Toby's Feed Barn in Pt. Reyes Station, and a Marin Organic farm sign
  • Promotion of the Marin Organic label on point of purchase signage, stall signs and banners at Farm Markets and local retail outlets
  • Spreading the Marin Organic name and its message about the benefits of buying locally grown and produced food through local and national media outlets
  • Creating demand for member's products among restaurants, grocery stores and farmers markets
  • Networking and business education opportunities by connecting fellow farmers and ranchers through seminars and workshops
  • Participation in community-based events to educate the public, such as Taste of Marin, Harvest Day, and many other conferences, events and gatherings

Supporting Business Partner Program

Marin Organic supports farmers by developing marketing campaigns that promote local, organic agriculture, creating a brand identity through the Marin Organic logo, developing relationships with local stores and restaurants and creating opportunities for businesses to meet local producers. Marin Organic also hosts a range of community events to highlight local producers and encourage media coverage of Marin's agricultural community. Though the Supporting Business Program, businesses make a commitment to buy from local producers whenever possible and in exchange receive a large sign, are highlighted on the organization's website, and receive the producer member marketing benefits. [7]

Organic School Lunch and Gleaning Program

Once a week Marin Organic visits member farms, gleans produce that would otherwise be left in the field, and delivers the food to public and private schools in Marin County. [8] Gleaned food is produce which would otherwise be left in the fields because it doesn't meet the strict aesthetic requirements of restaurants and retail markets. This can account for up to 20% of what is grown, and throughout the year. Through the Marin Organic School Lunch and Gleaning program more than 100,000 pounds of fresh, local, organic potatoes, squash, kale, spinach, arugula, lettuce, leeks, cucumbers, beets, carrots, zucchini, lemons, yogurt, milk, ice cream, meat and eggs have been added to the lunches of Marin school children. The program serves 12,000 students each week and earns local producers nearly $40,000 annually. [9]

Point Reyes Farmers Market

One of Marin Organic's first initiatives was to become the fiscal sponsor of the Point Reyes Farmers Market. Located in Point Reyes Station, the Point Reyes Farmers Market is the only market in the greater San Francisco Bay area to feature only locally grown, organic produce. Marin Organic serves as the market's fiscal sponsor and has helped to build the market into one of the most popular community meeting places and market outlets in the region. [10] The market hosted 21 farmers and vendors in 2009 and hosted several speaking and tasting events featuring local authors, chefs and musicians. [11]

Salmon Safe Certification

In 2007, Marin Organic launched its newest program Salmon Safe – a certification program designed to verify local producers' environmental stewardship of waterways and riparian habitats. The program is the result of a partnership between Marin Organic and Salmon Safe Oregon, in collaboration with the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin. [12]

Twelve properties have been certified in Marin, including Star Route Farms, Blackberry Farm, Green Gulch Farm, Slide Ranch, Drake's Bay Family Farms, Paradise Valley, Fresh Run Farm, La Tercera and Commonweal Gardens . Through the program, Marin Organic offers certification to Marin producers, technical assistance to meet the strict guidelines if needed, and incentives in the form of a recognizable label which designates a product as grown with the health of local waterways and their residents in mind. The program is not just for organic producers, but any producer that uses non-toxic, integrated pest management practices. [13]

Many individuals and groups, such as the Salmon Protection And Watershed Network (SPAWN), have been working for years to protect the rivers and streams of Marin County and restore riparian habitat in an effort to foster the return of the salmon to Marin County. [14] The Salmon Safe program is a means of verifying that Marin agricultural producers are doing their part as well.

"This program demonstrates that collaborative efforts and mutual understanding can result in an improved environment, farming viability, habitat improvements, enhancement of biodiversity, and the protection of threatened and endangered species..." - Marin Agricultural Commissioner Stacy Carlsen. [15]

Related Research Articles

Organic farming Method of agriculture meant to be environmentally friendly

Organic farming is an agricultural system which originated early in the 20th century in reaction to rapidly changing farming practices. Certified organic agriculture accounts for 70 million hectares globally, with over half of that total in Australia. Organic farming continues to be developed by various organizations today. It is defined by the use of fertilizers of organic origin such as compost manure, green manure, and bone meal and places emphasis on techniques such as crop rotation and companion planting. Biological pest control, mixed cropping and the fostering of insect predators are encouraged. Organic standards are designed to allow the use of naturally occurring substances while prohibiting or strictly limiting synthetic substances. For instance, naturally occurring pesticides such as pyrethrin and rotenone are permitted, while synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are generally prohibited. Synthetic substances that are allowed include, for example, copper sulfate, elemental sulfur and Ivermectin. Genetically modified organisms, nanomaterials, human sewage sludge, plant growth regulators, hormones, and antibiotic use in livestock husbandry are prohibited. Reasons for advocation of organic farming include advantages in sustainability, openness, self-sufficiency, autonomy/independence, health, food security, and food safety.

Conservation agriculture (CA) can be defined by a statement given by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations as “a concept for resource-saving agricultural crop production that strives to achieve acceptable profits together with high and sustained production levels while concurrently conserving the environment”.

Community-supported agriculture socioeconomic model of agriculture and food distribution

Community-supported agriculture is a system that connects the producer and consumers within the food system more closely by allowing the consumer to subscribe to the harvest of a certain farm or group of farms. It is an alternative socioeconomic model of agriculture and food distribution that allows the producer and consumer to share the risks of farming. The model is a subcategory of civic agriculture that has an overarching goal of strengthening a sense of community through local markets.

Organic movement "Organic Movement" is a term refers to the activities of people individually and as an organisation in promoting the - Growth and Usage of Organic food products.

The organic movement broadly refers to the organizations and individuals involved worldwide in the promotion of organic farming and other organic products. It started around the first half of the 20th century, when modern large-scale agricultural practices began to appear.

Organic certification certification process for producers of organic food and other organic agricultural products

Organic certification is a certification process for producers of organic food and other organic agricultural products. In general, any business directly involved in food production can be certified, including seed suppliers, farmers, food processors, retailers and restaurants. A lesser known counterpart is certification for organic textiles that includes certification of textile products made from organically grown fibres.

The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements is the worldwide umbrella organization for the organic agriculture movement, which represents close to 800 affiliates in 117 countries.

Quality Assurance International (QAI) is a U.S.-based international organic certification company that is authorized by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as "a USDA-accredited certifying agent that operates globally to certify organic operations to National Organic Program standards." It is a for-profit corporation, established in 1989, and headquartered in San Diego, California. It is one of the world's largest certifiers, operating in the United States, Canada, Latin America, European Union, and Japan. It is owned by public health and environmental organization NSF International.

Demeter International trademark

Demeter International is the largest certification organization for biodynamic agriculture, and is one of three predominant organic certifiers. Its name is a reference to Demeter, the Greek goddess of grain and fertility. Demeter Biodynamic Certification is used in over 50 countries to verify that biodynamic products meet international standards in production and processing. The Demeter certification program was established in 1928, and as such was the first ecological label for organically produced foods.

Rainforest Alliance nonprofit organization in New York, United States

The Rainforest Alliance is an international non-governmental organization (NGO) based in New York City and Amsterdam, with operations in more than 60 countries. It was founded in 1987 by Daniel Katz, who serves as the Chair of the board of directors. Its main work is the provision of an environmental certification on sustainable forestry and agriculture and tourism. Its certificate seal gives information to consumers about business practices, based on certain standards they set.

UTZ Certified

UTZ, formerly called UTZ Certified, is a program and a label for sustainable farming. The UTZ label is featured on more than 10,000 product packages in over 116 countries. From 2014, UTZ is the largest program for sustainable farming of coffee and cocoa in the world. The UTZ program comprises a reasonable handling of agricultural practices, social and living conditions, farm management, and the environment.

A sustainable food system is a type of food system that provides healthy food to people while also providing sustainable impacts on both environmental, economic and social systems that surround food.

Organic food foods produced without synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers

Organic food is food produced by methods complying with the standards of organic farming. Standards vary worldwide, but organic farming features practices that cycle resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Organizations regulating organic products may restrict the use of certain pesticides and fertilizers in the farming methods used to produce such products. Organic foods typically are not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or synthetic food additives.

The term food system is used frequently in discussions about nutrition, food, health, community economic development and agriculture. A food system includes all processes and infrastructure involved in feeding a population: growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, transporting, marketing, consumption, and disposal of food and food-related items. It also includes the inputs needed and outputs generated at each of these steps. A food system operates within and is influenced by social, political, economic, and environmental contexts. It also requires human resources that provide labor, research and education. Food systems are either conventional or alternative according to their model of food lifespan from origin to plate.

Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS), as defined by IFOAM, are "locally focused quality assurance systems. They certify producers based on active participation of stakeholders and are built on a foundation of trust, social networks and knowledge exchange." They represent an alternative to third party certification, especially adapted to local markets and short supply chains. They can also complement third party certification with a private label that brings additional guarantees and transparency. PGS enable the direct participation of producers, consumers and other stakeholders in:

Organic aquaculture is a holistic method for farming marine species in line with organic principles. The ideals of this practice established sustainable marine environments with consideration for naturally occurring ecosystems, use of pesticides, and the treatment of aquatic life. Managing aquaculture organically has become more popular since consumers are concerned about the harmful impacts of aquaculture on themselves and the environment.

Sustainability standards and certifications are voluntary, usually third party-assessed, norms and standards relating to environmental such as IFGICT Standard, social, ethical and food safety issues, adopted by companies to demonstrate the performance of their organizations or products in specific areas. There are over 400 such standards across the world. The trend started in the late 1980s and 90s with the introduction of Ecolabels and standards for Organic food and other products. Most standards refer to the triple bottom line of environmental quality, social equity, and economic prosperity. A standard is normally developed by a broad range of stakeholders and experts in a particular sector and includes a set of practices or criteria for how a crop should be sustainably grown or a resource should be ethically harvested. This might cover, for instance, responsible fishing practices that don't endanger marine biodiversity, or respect for human rights and the payment of fair wages on a coffee or tea plantation. Normally sustainability standards are accompanied by a verification process - often referred to as "certification" - to evaluate that an enterprise complies with a standard, as well as a traceability process for certified products to be sold along the supply chain, often resulting in a consumer-facing label. Certification programmes also focus on capacity building and working with partners and other organisations to support smallholders or disadvantaged producers to make the social and environmental improvements needed to meet the standard.

Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers, also known as Florida Organic Growers or FOG, is a non-profit organization founded in 1987. It is classified as a 501(c) corporation. One of the main facets of FOG is Quality Certification Services, a program that extends through 30 states and 14 countries. FOG is also concerned with community outreach and education in order to promote healthy organic lifestyles and social equity.

Fair trade cocoa cocoa harvested according to fair trade standards

Fair trade cocoa is an agricultural product harvested from a cocoa tree using a certified process which is followed by cocoa farmers, buyers, and chocolate manufacturers, and is designed to create sustainable incomes for farmers and their families. Companies that use fair trade certified cocoa to create products can advertise that they are contributing to social, economic, and environmental sustainability in agriculture.

Bio Suisse Swiss organic agriculture organisation and label

Bio Suisse is the main organisation of organic agriculture in Switzerland. This umbrella organization counts 32 organic farmers' associations among its members, as well as the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL. It notably manages the guidelines of the organic label "Bio Suisse".


  1. Organic Plus - Marin County farmers take organic one step further Archived 2006-09-27 at the Wayback Machine ,
  2. 1 2 Organic Farming's American Heartland Awaits Royals,
  3. 1 2 Visiting Spaniards latest group to learn about W. Marin organic farms,
  4. 1 2 Marin Organic - About Us,
  5. Leading the organic charge: Hellberg's path to Marin winds from Germany to schmoozing with English royalty,
  6. Marin Organic - Marketing Assistance Archived 2010-07-06 at the Wayback Machine ,
  7. Supporting Business Partner Program Archived 2010-07-06 at the Wayback Machine ,
  8. Marin 'slow food' advocates say: Know your farmer, know your food,
  9. Program gives 'gleaners' a new perspective on farming,
  10. Farmers markets thrive in Marin,
  11. Point Reyes Farmers Market,
  12. The Environmental Action Committee of West Marin - Salmon Safe Certification Program Archived 2011-07-26 at the Wayback Machine ,
  13. Marin Organic Salmon Safe Certification Archived 2010-07-06 at the Wayback Machine ,
  14. Salmon Protection & Watershed Network, About SPAWN Archived 2008-08-07 at the Wayback Machine ,
  15. Salmon safe: new certification labeling program highlights efforts to protect salmon habitat Archived 2011-07-08 at the Wayback Machine ,