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The best of both worlds: Parallel Production

Ryan Albinger initially transitioned his entire operation to organic. However, as his farm grew, his needs changed, and he decided to farm newly acquired parcels of land using conventional methods. Parallel organic and conventional production methods, Albinger argues, offer economic and social benefits.

“There are PR advantages,” Albinger said. Although he still reaps the benefits of organic production, he found that having a parallel operation allowed him to more easily connect with neighbors who farm conventionally. “[They know] I am not just a fringe practitioner with weeds in my field…growing weird crops.”

What’s the difference between Conventional and Organic agriculture?

Conventional and organic farmers have the same goal: to produce healthy food. But there are significant differences in how conventional and organic operators achieve this shared goal.

Crops grown organically are produced without the use of synthetic inputs. Instead of controlling weeds, pests, and disease with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, organic farmers focus on natural inputs and mechanical solutions. These practices include:

    • Crop rotation
    • Cover crops
    • Tillage
    • Flame weeding
    • Green mulch
    • and more!

Beyond producing healthy food, organic operators hope to improve the health of the land and increase biodiversity within the soil in order to operate sustainably.

In contrast, conventional farmers use synthetic materials to control pests, weeds, and disease. Many conventional farmers also use genetically modified seeds, a practice that is not allowed under organic regulations. Scientists created GMO seeds to combat specific problems faced during the growing season. Depending on modifications, GMO seeds may:


    • resist common diseases
    • repel common pests
    • grow faster
    • result in heartier crops
Parallel Production: Farming Conventional and Organic Acres

While many operators choose to fully transition their operations to organic, others, like Albinger, farm both conventionally and organically. This is called parallel production.

Parallel production allows operators to take full advantage of the benefits of both organic and conventional agricultural practices. But the method presents challenges.

“One of the challenges is the higher amount of paperwork and documenting the separation of the two systems,” Albinger said.

It can be helpful to establish organic acreage far from conventional acreage.

“Having the parallel production literally miles apart in my case is helpful,” Albinger said. “But the paperwork to prove that is significant, and rightly so.”

The large amount of paperwork might be intimidating to a conventional operator who simply wants to dabble in organics. Another challenge that parallel operators face? The ease of conventional farming.

“A phone call and writing a couple checks can make a county average yield,” Albinger said of conventional farming, noting that the use of GMO seeds and synthetic inputs means that conventional farmers don’t face many of the challenges that organic farmers face.

Still, organic acres command premium prices upon harvest. For many organic and parallel farmers, this makes the challenges of organic farming palatable.

Parallel operations provide producers with another sizeable benefit. “The ability to chameleon into situations is an essential tool that more organic farmers should possess,” Albinger argued. For him, knowledge of and real-life experience with both organic and conventional practices means he can make organics more palatable for a mainstream audience. “It’s the fastest way to disrupt systems,” Albinger concluded.

Are you a farmer, rancher, or processor who has transitioned to organic with OCIA International?

This post is part of a series featuring OCIA International certified organic operators from Canada, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, and the United States. Are you an OCIA operator interested in being featured? E-mail us at info@ocia.org for more information.

Every operator’s path to organic is different. Read more from our “Operator Spotlight” series to learn about the different paths to organic certification.
  • Jack Geiger: The farm crisis of the 1980s forced Jack Geiger’s family to consider farming methods that required fewer and less expensive inputs. They naturally turned to organics.
  • Askegaard Organic Farm: For Mark and his family, transitioning their conventional family farm to an organic farm just made sense. Organic practices–focused on creating sustainable environments and providing consumers with transparency–aligned with their values.
  • Allan Kettle: In the mid-1990s, Allan Kettle decided to organically certify his Alberta farm. For Allan, the decision to pursue organic certification was easy. Allan’s father, who operated the farm before him, had never used synthetic fertilizers or sprays. Allan continued those practices when he took over the farm.

Learn more about organic agriculture, certification, and OCIA International.

  • Should you transition to Organic?: The decision to transition a conventional operation to organic is deeply personal. Organic certification requires resources, like time and money, and perseverance in the face of the challenges that you will inevitably encounter along the way. Is transitioning to organic the right step for your operation?
  • Organic Certification Process: All operators seeking initial organic certification must complete a similar six step process regardless of which certification agency they partner with. The certification process can feel intimidating at first, but knowing what to expect can help alleviate much of the stress you might initially feel.
  • Organic System Plan: Everyone seeking organic certification–whether applying for the first time or the seventeenth time–must submit an updated Organic System Plan (OSP). But what is an OSP? And more importantly, how will it help you beyond certification?
  • Healthy Soil: Cultivating healthy soil requires establishing ecological balance and increasing biological diversity. But how can you establish healthy soil on your farm?
  • Why Certify with OCIA?: Choosing an organic certification agency is one of the most important points in an operator’s certification process. Let us tell you why OCIA is the right choice for you.

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Thank you for submitting your organic certification application! OCIA looks forward to working with you.

For applicants who are new or currently under suspension, please see the end of the page for some important notes.

An estimate for your 2023 certification and inspection fees was sent with the login information. Please promptly send payment to the address on the invoice. If you are a new applicant, OCIA will not review your file until payment is received.

If you are submitting hardcopies of any supporting documents, please mail them to the address on the invoice. Failure to submit required supporting documents may lead to delays in the review.

Once a complete file is received, OCIA will complete a pre-inspection review. During this process, OCIA will contact you if additional information is needed. Please respond to any communication from OCIA in a timely manner.

Please contact OCIA International if you have any questions.

New applicants: Please be reminded that as a new applicant, your operation currently cannot label or sell product as organic. If organic certification is granted, an organic certificate will be issued and product can then be sold as organic.

For farm operations, the inspector must see your crop in the field, so check-strips must be left in all fields requested for certification if any harvest occurs prior to inspection. For hay fields, any hay harvested prior to inspection cannot be certified as organic.

For suspended operations: Please be aware that no product can be sold as “organic” while suspended and previous product is no longer “organic.” For farm operations, any crops currently in storage are no longer organic and must be sold conventionally. Only crops harvested after reinstatement, if it is granted, may be sold as “organic.” Any crops harvested from fields prior to reinstatement must be sold conventionally.

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¡Gracias por enviar su solicitud de certificación orgánica! OCIA espera trabajar con usted. Para los solicitantes que son nuevos o están actualmente suspendidos, consulte el final de la página para conocer información importante.

Se le envió un estimado de los honorarios de certificación e inspección 2023 con la información de inicio de sesión. Envíe puntualmente el pago a la dirección que figura en la factura. Si usted es un nuevo solicitante, OCIA no revisará su expediente hasta que se reciba el pago.

Si envía copias impresas de cualquier documento de respaldo, envíelas por correo a la dirección que figura en la factura. Se podrá producir demoras en la revisión si no se envían los documentos de respaldo necesarios,.

Una vez que se recibe un expediente completo, OCIA llevará a cabo una revisión de preinspección. Durante este proceso, OCIA se comunicará con usted si necesita información adicional. Responda a cualquier comunicación de OCIA de manera oportuna.

Póngase en contacto con OCIA International si tiene alguna pregunta.

Para los solicitantes nuevos: recuerde que, como solicitante nuevo, su operación actualmente no puede etiquetar o vender productos como orgánicos. Si se otorga la certificación orgánica, se emitirá un certificado orgánico y el producto se podrá vender como orgánico.

Para las operaciones agrícolas, el inspector debe ver su cultivo en el campo, por lo que si se produce alguna cosecha antes de la inspección, se deben dejar franjas o surcos de verificación en todos los campos solicitados para la certificación. Para los campos de heno, cualquier heno cosechado antes de la inspección no puede certificarse como orgánico.

Para operaciones suspendidas: tenga en cuenta que ningún producto puede venderse como "orgánico" mientras está suspendido y que el producto anterior ya no es "orgánico". Para las operaciones agrícolas, cualquier cultivo actualmente almacenado ya no es orgánico y debe venderse de manera convencional. Solo los cultivos cosechados después del restablecimiento, si se otorga, pueden venderse como "orgánicos". Cualquier cultivo cosechado de los campos antes de la reinstalación debe venderse de manera convencional ".

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