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Real Organic Project Virtual Inspection FAQs

Below you will find answers to some frequently asked questions about our virtual inspections. If you cannot find an answer to your question here please feel free to email or call the Director of Certification, Ariel Pressman, at arielpressman@gmail.com or (413) 687-2255.

Q: Why am I being asked to conduct a virtual inspection this year instead of an onsite inspection?

A: Due to the unique situation presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, ROP has made the decision to conduct only virtual inspections of farms for the 2020 season. This was a difficult decision as we all take great joy in getting to visit farms across the country. However, the health and safety of our staff AND the safety of the certified farms are our top priorities. Given the current situation we felt the most responsible decision was to develop an alternative inspection process for this coming season.

Q: Will there be any cost to the virtual inspection?

A: ROP certification and inspection will remain free to growers, as always.

Q: How long will the virtual inspection take?

A: We have worked very hard to design our virtual inspection to only take about 1 hour – the same amount of time your onsite inspection would have taken.

Q: Do I need any supplies or technology fluency to complete the virtual inspection?

A: ROP will mail you, free of cost, all of the supplies you need to complete the virtual inspection. This includes the cell phone you will use to record video on your farm. We will include detailed instructions with the materials we send you. Anyone with a basic grasp of cell phones or computers should be able to easily complete the virtual inspection.

Q: Is this the new normal? Will ROP be conducting virtual inspection beyond the 2020 season?

A: The ROP virtual inspection procedure was developed as a specific response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Assuming travel is a safe option, ROP intends to go back to onsite inspections starting in 2021. Depending on the success of our virtual inspections, ROP may use this procedure on a limited basis going forward for especially remote farms that might otherwise prove difficult to travel to.

Q: If I receive a virtual inspection this season, does that mean I am exempted from an in-person inspection for the next 5 years, just like I would have been with an in-person inspection?

A: All farms receiving virtual inspections this year will be fully certified with ROP, just like any other farm. We will require farms receiving a virtual inspection in 2020 to have an in-person visit during the 2021 season. ROP is a grassroots organization that prides itself on building community and meeting farmers in person. Once it is safe to travel, on-site visits are essential to our mission.

Q: How can you inspect a farm without ever showing up in person?

A: ROP will be utilizing a number of different technologies to effectively inspect farms during the 2020 growing season. We will use a combination of satellite imagery, public land ownership data, and GPS enabled on-farm video. Video will enable us to ensure that we are seeing everything we need to see on the farm while GPS, satellite, and land ownership data will help us double-check this information. Please remember that ROP is an add-on label to USDA Organic. This means that all of our farms have already been certified by an NOP certifier. So, we are not representing that this will be a complete organic inspection. Rather, the virtual inspection will track information pertinent to ROP add-on certification.

Q: How did you get a satellite image of my farm?

A: ROP has spent the past several months developing a relationship with a leading satellite imagery company to procure satellite images of farms we are certifying. In limited situations we may also be using publicly available satellite images from the Sentinel-2 satellite system run by the European Space Agency.

Q: Can I have/publish a copy of the satellite image of my farm?

A: Unfortunately, our license to use satellite data does not allow us to give you a copy of the images or to publicly publish them. If you are interested in seeing a medium resolution image of your farm via satellite, Sentinel-2 data is free and available to the public at: https://sentinel.esa.int/web/sentinel/home