MOSA provides our clients with much more than just certification.

Joe Pedretti

MOSA Client Services Director

On Becoming an Organic Farm Inspector

On Becoming an Organic Farm Inspector

by Rebecca Anderson, Inspection Manager

Have you ever wondered about becoming an organic farm inspector?

It’s a life as glamorous as it sounds: set your own schedule, decide your

workload, gain work/life balance. Tell me more you say?

Contract inspection work is great for those with farming, food safety

and other regulatory compliance experience. Organic operations continue

to increase each year and so does the need for inspectors.

The work includes reviewing fields, livestock, records, inputs and auditing

sales and production records. Inspectors write a report of their

on-site observations that allows MOSA reviewers to make informed

decisions about granting certification. (Inspectors do not make certification


There is training involved and MOSA requires International Organic
Inspectors Association (IOIA) training or previous experience in
organic inspecting for all contract inspectors. IOIA offers three basic
training programs:
• Basic Crop Inspection (this is the place to start the journey)
• Basic Livestock Inspection
• Basic Processing Inspection

Each program is offered as a stand alone training, often as a four or five day online course. Details about the requirements, courses and fees are available at

Yes, fees apply so please read through the IOIA training page and decide if making this self-investment is right for you.

The Organic Integrity Learning Center offers free training sessions and you’ll find a link at the end of this story. These sessions do not replace IOIA training but can give you a sense of what it’s like to work in the regulatory world.

Once you get your training there is a brief apprenticeship with a mentor. IOIA and MOSA can assist with finding a mentor who is an experienced inspector willing to help new inspectors get a good start.
It’s been six years since I took the IOIA crop training course and in the interim I’ve done around 70 inspections each year between April and November. Each inspection is different but the process is the same so inspections provide a steady mix of familiarity with very different operations.

A typical day in the life of an inspector involves reviewing the producer’s Organic System Plan (OSP) for changes. Then looking at the field plan, inputs or ingredients if it’s a handler inspection, followed by a tour around the fields or the facility to verify that the OSP reflects practices in place. During the tour inspectors also observe the health of the crop and soil, livestock, and biodiversity on the farm to name a few things. The field walk is one of my favorite parts of inspection because aside from matching up the OSP with what you see on the ground, it’s a chance to listen to the producer describe their approach to growing organic crops. My favorite quote from a grower was him describing how he used companion planting to combat pests. He called it “chemical warfare with plants.”
April is the month you pack all of your gear for inspection, if you base your life in Wisconsin anyway. On one April day I left for inspections and it was 70 degrees so I drove with my sunroof open. The next day it was 34 degrees (but sunny) and the roof would not close. I drove home with the roof open, a winter hat on and a blanket on my lap.
May brings whatever mother nature can imagine. One year it rained so much that many crop inspections included a rewrite of the field plan. There are often themes to a growing year and that year it was “couldn’t get in the fields 'til June so planted soybeans instead.”

Along the way I spent time in small towns across Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois–towns I’d never have visited were it not for an inspection. Even better I got to meet the producers who work 365 days/year because they believe in growing a crop and building the soil at the same time.
The goals of growing organic and ensuring organic integrity (through the inspection process) intersect at the farm inspection, often at the kitchen table with a dog or two nearby and maybe a curious kid looking on.
Like farming, inspection life is challenging, but it does make me feel good about going to work. The industry need for more inspectors is very strong. MOSA currently has opportunities for staff inspectors and contract inspectors, especially those with livestock experience. Visit our new Join Us - Inspectors webpage for more information.

As always, thanks for your interest in organics.
-Rebecca Anderson (
MOSA Inspector Brochure (pdf)
for more details
Organic Integrity Learning Center
(to sign up for an account to take classes)
International Organic Inspectors Association
(for information on upcoming trainings)