Nurseries can evaluate own operations for free

By MITCH LIES

Capital Press

Nurseries have a new tool to determine whether their practices are sustainable.

The Portland-based Food Alliance has unveiled the first broad-spectrum sustainable certification tool for North American nursery and greenhouse operations.

The certification standards were developed in consultation with the state's nursery industry.

Food Alliance and the Oregon Association of Nurseries began collaborating in 2009 after OAN approached the third-party certifier.

"There wasn't any tool nursery owners could use to assess their sustainability," said Whitney Rideout, OAN sustainability initiative manager.

"Nurseries viewed this as a way to test themselves against the certification standards to measure their sustainability and identify areas for improvement and, if they want, go on for third-party certification," Rideout said.

The program offers nursery and greenhouse producers an option to evaluate their operations free of charge against the standards.

"I am especially excited about that," said Roberta Anderson, business development director for Food Alliance. "As a nonprofit organization, the education portion is very important for us, and this allows us to broaden our reach."

The new program is the first comprehensive third-party certification tailored for North American nurseries, Anderson said.

It analyzes operational efficiencies with energy and water, gauges an operation's effect on wildlife habitat and measures working conditions, pest management practices and other performance standards against a sustainability index, Anderson said.

The North Dakota-based International Certification Services, which Food Alliance uses for all its inspections, initially plans to train two inspectors. They will be trained in collaboration with Food Alliance, using the standards developed by the Portland-based nonprofit, Anderson said. More will be trained as need develops.

Northwest nurseries certified under the program also will be eligible for Salmon Safe certification.

Food Alliance plans to complete its first nursery inspection in the next couple of months, Anderson said.

"Any one who wants to go ahead and move forward with evaluation at this point should do that," she said.

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