For organic farms, a buffer zone is an area between certified organic production and non-organic land. Buffer zones provide a dedicated area to prevent contamination. You’ll monitor firsthand how to gauge the effectiveness of your buffer zone in protecting your crops.
Buffer zones should be clearly indicated on the required Farm Map.
Where do I need to have a buffer zone?
If there is any risk of contamination from adjacent properties or activities (e.g., pesticide sprays, roadway drainage, etc.) that pose a threat to crops you intend to be “sold, labeled or represented” as organic, you need a buffer sufficient to prevent contamination.
What do farm buffer zones protect certified organic crops from?
Buffer zones protect your certified organic crops and land from prohibited substances (e.g., unapproved synthetic pesticides) and excluded methods (e.g., GMO cross-pollination).
How big does a buffer zone need to be?
There is no standard size for buffer zones. The only requirement is that a buffer zone does its job. Size matters, but so does your planting and management plan (e.g., plant type, the height of a hedgerow, plant density and bioswales). Factors such as common wind patterns, land slope, chemical application activity and stormwater drainage patterns all will inform how you set up your buffer. We may perform pesticide or GMO residue testing of organic crops to verify that buffer zones are adequate. Simply put, it must be adequate to prevent contamination from prohibited substances.
Can I harvest crops from a buffer zone?
Crops can be grown in a buffer zone but they may not be sold or represented as organic. We may perform pesticide or GMO residue testing of organic crops to verify that buffer zones are adequate. You’ll need to follow your contamination prevention plans and clean out for equipment used in buffer zones and any crops harvested and stored.
Check out our quick tips video about buffer zones: