In 2001, Protected Harvest was formally established as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in Soquel, California. Protected Harvest evolved out of a collaboration among World Wildlife Fund, the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association, and the University of Wisconsin. Over the course of five years, the collaboration resulted in a fresh market potato standard, which was validated and certified by Protected Harvest. The standard was developed to include a unique, metric-based approach to measuring environmental and worker risk from pesticide active ingredients called the Pesticide Environmental Assessment System (PEAS).
Protected Harvest’s work certifying different agricultural commodities quickly expanded with an opportunity in the California wine industry. Following an initial standards development phase, in 2005 Protected Harvest worked with the organization’s current Board President, Cliff Ohmart, who at the time served as the first Sustainable Winegrowing Director for the Lodi Winegrape Commission, to launch the LODI RULES for Sustainable Winegrowing (LODI RULES) certification program. In the first year of the program only six growers, with a cumulative 1455 acres of winegrapes, were certified. LODI RULES established a benchmark for best practice and sustainable production of winegrapes in California and has grown over the years to encompass more than 55,000 acres of certified winegrapes in vineyards in California and Israel.
Building on the success of LODI RULES, a new certification standard was launched in 2007 to address a market need for a science-based approach to assessing sustainable citrus production practices. In 2019 it was revised and relaunched as The Sustainable Citrus Standard to reflect the latest best practices in agricultural production and Integrated Pest Management, as well as including social responsibility and energy management criteria. Currently, over 5,000 acres of citrus groves managed by SunWest Fruit Company in California have been certified against the latest version of the standard.
A mushroom production standard was also launched in 2007 in partnership with Modern Farms Mushrooms.
Working in partnership with the California Cut Flower Commission, Protected Harvest began working on certification of cut flower farms based on the BloomCheck® standard in 2015. BloomCheck® is California’s first sustainable cut flower certification program, and its certification standards were recently revised to be applicable to all cut flower farms and potted plant horticultural operations nationwide.
Protected Harvest continues to work with its partners to grow existing certification programs and evolve its industry leading approach to assessing pesticide usage in accordance with Integrated Pest Management principles. Protected Harvest is transitioning from the use of the PEAS model to the Pesticide Risk Tool (PRT), the next generation of pesticide risk measurement, and expects the PRT to be integrated into different standards in the coming years.