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Apprenticeships Develop Inspectors Skills to Protect Organic Integrity

Posted by Laura Gallagher, NOP Program Analyst, Agricultural Marketing Service in Farming Organic
Apr 24, 2023
Participants in the IOIA apprenticeship program

Every year, thousands of farmers, ranchers, and businesses grow and produce organic products – and all these operations are audited by qualified organic inspectors. Organic inspectors visit fields, pastures, or processing plants to conduct annual reviews where they meet with farmers and processors, ask questions, and observe processes. Annual inspections by qualified inspectors strengthen consumer trust in the USDA organic seal and ensure families are getting what they paid for when they choose to buy organic.

As consumer demand for organic products continues to grow, the industry’s need for organic inspectors also increases. This creates an exciting career opportunity for new and experienced agricultural professionals. Specialized training on organic regulations, production practices, and investigation skills helps budding inspectors prepare for the job.

The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) Human Capital Capacity Building Initiative creates new career pathways through apprenticeship programs. In 2022, with support from NOP, the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA) and California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) Foundation each designed unique apprenticeships. IOIA trained apprentices during a one-week intensive program, preparing new inspectors with skills for employment. CCOF Foundation paired apprentices with experienced inspectors for ongoing mentorship, allowing apprentices the flexibility to complete training on a schedule that worked for them over several months. Each organization trained a diverse group of apprentice inspectors, including recent graduates and second-career seekers.

To build on this foundation, NOP is publishing resources, learning objectives, lesson plans, and administrative templates to help other organizations offer their own apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeship provides a path to employment by connecting generations of experienced and new inspectors to share insights, learn together, and grow the organic community.

Learn more about all the successful Human Capital Initiative partners and explore program resources in the USDA Organic Integrity Learning Center.

Do you want to learn more about what an organic inspector does? Watch the video Become an Organic Inspector.

Category/Topic: Farming Organic