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What type of farm maps do I need for my organic system plan application?


Your organic system plan (OSP) organic certification application includes the locations that various practices and inputs are used on your farm. Your organic certification agency uses your written plan as well as your yearly on-site annual inspection to verify your farming operation meets the requirements of the organic regulation. Field maps, as well as maps that illustrate the location of all livestock housing, feed storage, crop storage, greenhouse or high tunnel production, input storage, other buildings and production facilities which are integral to your farming operation should be provided as part of your OSP.

For field maps, the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), can provide easy-to-read aerial maps for each of the farm fields that you own or lease for agricultural production. FSA offices are in every county or region. You can find the one nearest you by going online to the Service Center Locator . All fields under your management should be present, even if you do not sell organic crops or pasture organic animals on some of those fields.

You could also use internet websites such as Google Earth or Web Soil Survey to get aerial photographs of your homestead, fields and pastures. Hand-drawn maps are acceptable, as long as they are drawn to scale. Many times it is easier to use a wider aerial view photograph as a map of your fields, and a hand-drawn map of your homestead to illustrate livestock housing and crop storage.

While it is not a mandate, it is useful to note items such as thick stands of trees in the fencerows, streams or roads that act as buffer zones between your land and adjoining land where prohibited materials are used. Describing the features of the buffer zones on the maps helps both you and the certifying agent determine if a buffer zone where no organic crops can be harvested is necessary, or if it is of sufficient size and type to prevent drift or runoff of materials that are prohibited in organic production.

You can also note which land adjoining your organic fields are managed by non-organic farmers. If you have an adjoining land-use affidavit from a neighbor stating they do not use any prohibited materials on their pastures (for instance), you could note that neighbor’s name on the map. This would help the certification agency understand which field borders are covered by which adjoining land-use affidavit.

Note all locations of grain and forage storage, and if you have both organic and non-organic (includes transitional) storage on the farm, note which types of storage they are on the map using a number, letter or other designation. If you are renting cropland or storage away from your home farm, note the street address or nearby road junctions on the map, as a way to aid the certification agency in understanding where these parcels are located.

If you are rotationally grazing using permanent paddocks, you could note each paddock on the map, or at least note which larger pasture field contains which paddocks. If you are using moveable fencing, you do not need to draw in these temporary fence lines on the map. Even if you are not selling your livestock as organic, if you have pasture on your farm, it should be noted. Locations where livestock have access to surface waters and other watering areas could also be noted.

Each farm field, pasture, and storage location should have a designation, such as a number, letter or name, with a corresponding field history or storage record. These designations should be present on both the map and your other documentation. Vegetable growers should note locations and names of permanent structures such as unheated high tunnels or heated greenhouses, cold frames and packing sheds or outdoor produce post-harvest areas. For those with great diversity in their fields, tracking which crops are grown by row or bed from year to year on a map can double as both an illustration of where the crops are grown as well as a field history of your crop rotation and the corresponding input or manure applications used on each crop. Areas where irrigation may be drawing from surface waters should be on the map.

Making sure that all necessary areas are noted on clear maps, along with the corresponding descriptive information in your OSP, will help your certifier’s initial review of your application and your annual organic inspection go quicker, with less questions and confusion.

Posted: Jun 2015
Answer By: Harriet Behar