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For first-generation organic farmer Alan Wilson, the path to running his own certified organic operation has been characterized by constant learning, trial and error, and having an invaluable network of peers and supporters behind him.  



After serving as a U.S. Army Calvary Scout through two combat deployments and nearly 10 years, Wilson began pursuing an education through Barton Community College (BCC) in Kansas and exploring the world of horticulture.  

“The first spring I was out of the Army, I decided I was going to try and grow a garden in our backyard and failed miserably,” Wilson said. “I did, however, learn that I enjoyed working with plants and trying to shepherd life.” 

After completing his core requirements at BCC, Wilson transferred to Kansas State University (KSU) and completed a bachelor’s in horticulture with a focus in fruit and vegetable production.  



During his time at KSU, Wilson also helped on the family farm of a friend, Jesse Rottinghaus. Here, he began to learn the basics of production agriculture and grew to enjoy the work he was doing.  

“I began to really like farming even though I had never been exposed to production agriculture,” Wilson said. “I had also become interested in organic agriculture through my own curiosity and some undergraduate research while going to school.” 

When an old alfalfa field on the Rottinghaus farm needed something new planted, Wilson received his first opportunity to put his education and growing practical experience to use. This formative experience started a journey for Wilson that eventually led to his renting and farming 600 acres in Kansas using organic farming practices. 

Later on, the opportunity for Wilson and his family to take over a farm belonging to his wife’s grandparents presented itself. While leaving behind lifelong friends was difficult, the young family made the transition to Indiana and began farming organically there. 



Over four years, Wilson, with his wife Shelley and their two young children Lincoln and Renley, has grown 75 certified organic row crop acres into over 340. They produce corn, soybeans and small grains near Huntington, Indiana.  

For Wilson, land access and a lack of generational knowledge about organic production have been his biggest challenges. While the learning curve can be steep for beginning and transitioning organic producers, Wilson has capitalized on his own experiential learning and the knowledge of others in the industry.  

“I am constantly making mistakes and trying to learn from them,” Wilson said. “I am constantly asking questions and advice of people that have farmed their whole lives.” 

Wilson encourages beginning producers in situations like his to remain flexible and always have a plan A, B, C and D. He also emphasizes the importance of determination and staying connected to other producers.  

“Keep after it and take it one step at a time. The process and the adversity that you face will get easier. It will seem overwhelming at times; it will get easier,” Wilson said. “The biggest thing is sticking with it and keeping an open mind. Ask questions and find other producers with a willingness to show you the ropes.” 



Wilson chose to certify as organic because it was a financially accessible way to begin farming as a first-generation producer. He also believes in the principles of organic farming practices – environmental soundness, healthier commodities and stewardship.  

Wilson was initially drawn to OCIA because of the networking and learning opportunities local chapters provide. As his operation grows, Wilson continues to see the value in certification.  

“Being [OCIA] certified organic brings a ton of value to our operation, not only from a cash flow business side, but from a quality-of-life value as well,” Wilson said. “We would have never gotten to where we are today without our organic certification.”  



For those considering transitioning to organic, Wilson provides one final piece of advice. 

“If I can do it, anyone can do it.” 

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.
  • Bessette Creek Farm: Through traditional organic farming methods like the use of cover crops and crop rotation, Bessette Creek Farm improved the quality of their soil, reduced their water usage, and now better retains moisture in their soil even during the driest months of the year.
  • 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.
  • Variety Coffee: Variety Coffee has a simple mission: provide customers with the freshest, highest quality coffee possible. The Brooklyn-based coffee roster and chain of cafes does this by sourcing coffee beans from around the world, focusing on acquiring beans that reflect growing seasons of different coffee-producing regions.
  • Edelman Certified Organic Farm: Brad Edelman’s passion is sustainable agriculture. The Kansas-based farmer has made it his life’s work to farm sustainably and help others make the transition to sustainable practices. 

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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