In the early-to-mid 1970’s research on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) farming systems – environmentally sound, information-based systems of farming that use preventative tactics and biological controls – began to become available in the wake of three decades of research focusing on chemical-based systems. In the 1980’s the concept of “sustainable agriculture” began to be widely used in agriculture and scientific circles. Originally related primarily to soil conservation and the increase of soil organic matter, “sustainable agriculture” grew into a concept that encompassed the use of IPM and other environmental protection practices in agriculture. Yet years later these concepts are just beginning to make headway in agriculture or the marketplace. While most farmers would like to adopt practices that minimize environmental impacts, these practices are often more labor intensive and expensive – too risky for farmers that are under increasing pressure to minimize their expenses or lose the farm.

It is vitally important to develop a market mechanism to 1) stimulate mainstream farmers to adopt sustainable practices on a commercial scale and 2) communicate this commitment to environmental protection to the consumer. By certifying farmers’ adherence to stringent and scientifically-based production practices and offering the use of the Protected Harvest eco-label, we think that the program is in a unique position to be that mechanism and overcome the roadblocks to sustainable agriculture implementation.

About Protected Harvest

Protected Harvest evolved out of an unprecedented collaboration of the World Wildlife Fund, the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association, and the University of Wisconsin. These organizations were brought together by the challenge of developing a revolutionary large-scale agricultural practice that reduced the impact on the environment. Over the course of five years, the collaboration developed a certification program for fresh market potatoes that meet stringent Biointensive IPM production and reduced-risk pesticide standards. By 1999, participating growers achieved an impressive 37% reduction in pesticide “toxicity units,” as compared to 1995 industry baseline data.

As far as we know, this is the only such program to use quantifiable performance measures for the reduction of high-risk pesticides. The original “toxicity unit” system was modified to reflect grower practices which reduce environmental and worker risk. The result was called PEAS: the Pesticide Environmental Assessment System – a methodology for assessing the environmental impacts of pesticide applications from active ingredients. This environmental index approach assesses environmental aspects with the best available scientific data: (1) acute mammalian toxicity; (2) chronic mammalian toxicity; (3) ecotoxicity (risks to small aquatic organisms, fish, and birds); and (4) impacts on the viability of biointensive IPM (effects on beneficial organisms).

In 2001, Protected Harvest was established as an independent certification organization, with the principal mission of advancing and certifying the use of sustainable agriculture practices through the development of stringent, transparent, and quantifiable standards.  Please see Protected Harvest FAQ’s for more detail.  In 2008, the Protected Harvest program was brought into the administration of SureHarvest, a firm providing professional services and information technology solutions focused in the areas of agrifood sustainable practices and related software systems. The Protected Harvest Board of Directors has the continuing responsibility of reviewing and approving all new certification standards and modifications to existing standards.

In tandem with pesticide impact limits is a comprehensive and stringent set of production standards for each crop. To be Protected Harvest certified, farmers and growers must participate in a significant number of the standard’s practices identified as positive for an environmentally sound production system. For each crop, a specific set of standards is developed based on the ecology and agronomy of the crop and the growing region. The growers communicate which practices they use through a self assessment. This assessment is later verified through documentation and an audit conducted by a qualified third-party inspector.

The Board of Directors

The Board of Directors is a collaboration of representatives of prominent environmental organizations, agricultural specialists, scientists, and marketing experts. The Board’s responsibility is to review and approve all standards as grounded in environmental science and practical for on-farm implementation.

Protected Harvest Partners

Almost 41,000 acres of farmland are currently certified by Protected Harvest for the production of winegrapes, stonefruit and citrus.  Two previous certification programs for potatoes and mushrooms included 41,000 acres .  Protected Harvest Partners use our certified sustainable eco-label on their products which increases marketability in today’s sustainably conscious marketplace.

Protected Harvest Administrator

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SureHarvest administers the  Protected Harvest Program.  Certification is supported by SureHarvest Sustainability MIS software, providing growers and auditors the ease of electronic record-keeping and verification. Certification covers growers, chain of custody, and licensing of the eco-label trademark in product packaging and point-of-sale promotional materials.