Grower Group Membership
Why an Organic Grower Group?
Rainbow Valley Orchards (RVO) created a grower group in the early 1990’s to provide small (1 to 20-acre) growers with various benefits, including organic farming education and organic certification. Growers transitioning from conventional farming methods into organic were looking to connect, to learn how to farm organic and how to prepare each year for certification inspection. These growers were also looking for someone to help them harvest, prepare and sell their fruit for them, a place to trust and to return them the most money they could get on the wholesale market.
Most of these growers had previous experience with conventional packinghouses which required as much as 6 months or more of waiting before they were returned any money for their fruit. Some of these growers had experience with other organic packinghouses with negative results. So, the group was formed with the added purpose of providing that assurance that its members would get paid in a shorter period of time and have full access to their individual files.
In addition to the benefits and cost savings in education and certification assistance, the growers in this group were willing to make Rainbow Valley Orchards their exclusive marketer of their fruit. To summarize, group members receive honest, competitive returns for their fruit, significant discounts in annual certification fees, assistance with State Organic Registration (if needed), education and important agricultural information related to organic farming, and personal grove care assistance with their groves (if needed).
Currently, the Rainbow Valley Orchards Grower Group is made up of more than 30 local, small growers in San Diego and Riverside counties. Each new grower, upon signing a Managed Marketing Agreement with Rainbow Valley Orchards, receives an organized notebook and is personally trained in how to use the notebook. All growers are given a group material list to use when determining what organic material they should use on their grove, and trained to make an annual Organic Systems Plan for their own grove. They are required to maintain their respective notebooks ( i.e., keep grove activity and input records and copies of material receipts according to the group instructions) and report to RVO’s group coordinator any changes to their Organic Systems Plan. The group meets annually to stay current and informed of any new Federal or State Organic Certification Regulations.
At the group’s annual meeting, each grower submits his/her completed notebook to the coordinator for review and for inspection by the certification agency that independently certifies the group, which currently is Organic Certifiers, Inc. Once the book inspection is completed, the certification inspector will visit each grower to perform an on-site inspection. This inspection is mostly to check the grower’s map and borders of property and clear up any questions the inspector may have after the book inspection. The inspection usually takes less than a half hour of a pre-set appointment time with the grower. At or before the site inspection, the notebook is returned to the grower. To summarize, growers are trained in organic grove planning and record keeping. They are required to attend an annual certification meeting and submit a completed, up-to-date notebook for inspection at that time of year.
Be a grower with a minimum of 200 citrus or avocados trees.
Be in your 3rd year of transition of organic farming methods.
Request an interview with the group coordinator by calling the office.
Fill out an application for membership and sign necessary group documents.
If you are already a certified organic grower wanting to join the grower group, your transition into the group can be made immediately upon signing the necessary group and certification documents. Your discounted payment for certification inspection services would be due at that time.
If you are a brand new organic grower with less than 36 months of required time needed before marketing your fruit as organic, your transition will happen during the 36th month. So that you are ready to use the organic label once transition period is complete, be sure to contact the group coordinator during the 32nd month of transition in order to complete necessary State and Federal organic certification documentation on time.
Besides the basic group benefits enjoyed by group members stated above, there are now, thanks to the internet, additional benefits enjoyed by group members. Our website and emails give growers educational information about organic growing tips and techniques, current organic produce industry news, information about upcoming seminars, and important links to organic suppliers and agencies. All of this has been accomplished for the purpose of giving grower group members an edge to timely market and agricultural information.