The Wedge was first certified as an organic retailer in 2002.
As important as deciding to become Certified Organic is why we maintain our Certification. It isn't easy; the rules get updated and our staff changes, so we constantly train and re-train. Sometimes it seems like the USDA and the National Organic Program (NOP) are working to unravel the basic principles of transparency in the program as they clarify and expand rules and update the list of approved substances. But transparency is fundamental to Certified Organic, and for a retailer it means being observed doing what you say you are doing according to your Organic Handling Plan, and doing it all the time. It also means our staff is aware every day of organic integrity, which requires a high level of attention to details.
To retain our standing as a Certified Organic retailer, we submit an application every year to renew our certification. Then we are inspected. The application is submitted with our Organic Handling Plan, describing what we do and how we do it. Some of it is basic, a snapshot of how the Wedge operates as a business. Other parts are comprehensive, requiring us to document every ingredient in organic Deli and Bakehouse recipes, every cleaning product we use, and even how we segregate our storage space and displays to uphold organic integrity. As operations change at the Wedge, our Handling Plans change, and every Department has one.
The Handling Plan includes practices such as maintaining an audit trail for every certified organic product, continuous review of labels and operational procedures that are strictly proprietary. The Handling Plan is the basis of the inspection. The inspector studies our Handling Plan before inspecting our co-op and comes ready to evaluate, in real time, how every staff member on every shift, every day, implements the Handling Plan. The inspector also takes products off our shelves to verify that we have the organic certificates for each product, a requirement for a Certified Organic retailer. In the Deli and Bakehouse, that means following our audit trail for every ingredient in a random selection of organic products that we make at the Wedge. The inspector walks through the co-op, questions staff, looks at labels and shelf tags and then writes up the findings.
Inspectors are hired as third party, independent contractors by an Accredited Certification Agency. Their findings are submitted to the Accredited Certification Agency that is selected by the applicant. The Wedge uses the Midwest Organic Services Association (MOSA). The Wedge receives a summary of findings a few months later. We are given time to clarify any unanswered questions and provide additional documentation, if needed. We receive our renewed certificate which we post on our web site. You can see our Certificate and the list of Wedge products that are certified organic.
Every year we ask ourselves, either quietly to ourselves as individuals or out loud as a collective, why do we do this? What is so important about this particular piece of paper? Why do we continue to document our every action, our every purchase, why do we continually write dates on everything, why do we constantly wrestle with finding better cleansers that meet the National Organic standards and search for Certified Organic ingredients that will reflect a true and reasonable price for a really great tasting Deli item?
Once we start asking about the whys, we remember; we do this because it is meaningful to our members to have a confident shopping experience, knowing that we have already gone through all these procedures every day to make certain that what we put on our shelves is good enough for our members to put on their shelves. We do it to maintain the organic integrity that was initiated by the farmers and producers that supply us with organic products. We believe our certification provides our members, employees, and community a deepening understanding of the importance of Certified Organic as a way of providing the best quality product for a fair price in a sustainable way. And we do it because it maintains a transparent and accountable method for products to adhere to a standard of quality that has yet to be duplicated. This is why the Wedge is Certified Organic.