What Is Certified Transitional Farming?

What Is Certified Transitional Farming?

Organic market fruits and vegetables

By Valentine Reed-Johnson, RD, CDN, Contributing Blogger

Farms around the country are on the fence about becoming certified organic farms. The process to switch from conventional farming to organic farming can be quite the hassle. This may be why only about 15,000—around 1% of the 2 million US farms–are certified organic. The good news is there’s a new process called Certified Transitional Farming which helps farms easily transition to certified organic farming.

How does it work?

Certified Transitional Farming is a new process in which a third party certification company monitors and approves farms that are transitioning from conventional to organic. Organic farmers use non-synthesized pesticides and non-GMO plants to omit the chemicals involved in farming and ensure a more natural product.

It’s a 3 year voyage to become USDA certified organic, but with the help of a quality assurance program to prevent the use of GMO’s and pesticides, farms can transition to organic more easily. If the crop is grown before the 3 year mark, it is referred to as the transitional crop and cannot be sold as organic. The downside to transitional farming–and reason why many farms don’t participate–is that farms are required to use organic farming methods throughout the entire 3 year transitional phase, but they cannot sell their products as organic during this time. This means spending more money to grow something that sells at a lower cost.

What’s in it for the farmer?

Joining the organic marketplace leads to less uncertainty for farmers because more and more Americans want organic products. Also, farmers will pay half of what it usually costs to become organic through this transitional process.

Who’s involved in Certified Transitional Farming?

Companies such as Kashi are getting involved in order to promote the transition process. Kashi is concerned with the ecological, nutritional, and overall well-being of consumers, and so they encourage more farms to participate in organic farming. A company called Quality Assurance International supervises the transitional process and develops yearly steps for the farmers to follow, in order to help ensure quality, Accredited organic certification organizations help farmers purchase mills, blend and package in higher quality clean grains, to create a “transitionally sustainable” cereal product (which Kashi now sells).

 Should you buy Certified Transitional Farming products?

You may see the Certified Transitional mark on items at the grocery store. Buying these products promotes and supports the transition to organic farming. Purchasing transitional products creates a demand among farmers for more organic products, which means less pesticides and chemicals in our food supply.


Valentine is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, currently working at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. At the hospital she covers general medicine floors. Eventually, Valentine hopes to open up a private practice along side her hospital position. Valentine believes in providing practical nutrition knowledge, encouraging others to think logically when it comes to their health. Follow Valentine on Twitter or visit her website.

  • Leah McGrath
    Posted at 14:51h, 19 September Reply

    Thank you for this article. I had heard this “transitional” certification was a thing but was sad to see this. I do agree that the 3 year transition for farmers who wish to go organic can be an expensive one. They can’t sell their products as certified organic but their inputs are definitely more expensive as they try and get there. Here are my questions:
    -this seems like yet another label that is going to confuse consumers I deal with in the supermarket and seek to put on a pedestal a farming method and try and give it a more elite status.
    -cost – how much will this cost the farmer?
    -why are we vilifying pesticides/chemicals and making this seem more “natural”? organic farmers use pesticides and chemicals – there are over 200 that can be used by organic farmers.
    -We know that pesticide residue is quite minimal in the U.S…do we really need to scare people into thinking there is a problem with this when our ultimate goal is just to try and get them to eat more fruits, vegetables?
    -why does it always seem like there’s a brand (Kashi) behind efforts like this to add yet another label? If USDA had conceived of this I would be more in favor of it.

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