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Concerning Disinformation from OrganicEye

by Kelly Damewood |

Dear CCOF Members,

A concerning fundraising letter was sent to our clients by Mark Kastel under the name of “The Organic Eye.” Mark Kastel has a reputation for harassment and bullying. Despite his rhetoric of shaming companies as sell outs, Mark Kastel seems to target companies that do not donate to his own organization. He ends the letter asking you to send him money.

While we hate to take up more of your time with the silly accusations made in the letter, we are also firm believers in transparency. Here are clarifications:

– CCOF is partnering with the Organic Trade Association (OTA).

CCOF is an OTA member. CCOF is also a member of the National Organic Coalition (NOC), Organic Farmers Association (OFA), and others working to advance organic agriculture. We also collaborate with grassroots organizations and sponsor gatherings such as the annual EcoFarm Conference.

– CCOF certifies hydroponic operations.

CCOF certifies hydroponic operations that comply with the USDA National Organic Program requirements. The USDA National Organic Program has allowed the certification of hydroponic since its inception. CCOF continues to call for a separate label for these operations. However, we cannot require separate labeling without an explicit USDA National Organic Program label.

– CCOF certifies CAFOs.

We certify some operations that have herds or flocks over 1,000. Organic regulations mandate outdoor access and daily grazing throughout the grazing season for all ruminant animals. Some regions have ample moisture to support year-round grazing. Other regions may be impacted by factors like drought. CCOF conducts rigorous feed and pasture audits. We were the first certifier to conduct unannounced livestock inspections and have been recognized for our rigorous feed audit inspections that exceed other certifier practices. You can learn more about our rigorous livestock inspections by reading these past updates: and 

– CCOF revenue is $27M a year.

Yes, and we are unsure why this is an issue. We are a mid-size nonprofit organization. We certify over 4,340 operations of various scales. The CCOF Foundation raises funds from individuals, businesses, family foundations, and government contracts to support organic producers, especially organic producers experiencing hardship. We are very open about our financials and publish annual reports detailing income streams and expense categories. We are proud of our financial accountability and transparency.

– CCOF has $16M in assets and investments.

We believe this may be referring to information from one of our regular annual audits. But it is an extremely strange and out of context piece of information to highlight. CCOF follows nonprofit best practice in maintaining a 3-month operating reserve, which is conservatively invested. Like any healthy company, CCOF also has assets like equipment, website and database, accounts receivable, cash, prepaid expenses, etc. We are audited annually, and we are proud of our financial accountability to our members. We are a 50-year-old nonprofit and plan to be around for many more years to come.

– Half the CCOF Board is dominated by agribusiness.

No. Our board members are elected by CCOF members. Our board represents the diversity in scales and types of operations that make up the organic community. Our board has several small farmers, a few mid-size family farmers, and a few representatives from larger operations that were also among the original organic farms like Lundberg Family Farms and Capay Organic. In fact, CCOF’s Board of Directors is so un-corporate/un-agribusiness that the allegations are laughable. Learn more about our board at

The letter sent by the Organic Eye is a fundraising letter. The allegations attempt to solicit donations by building fear about the size of operations. We are always happy to talk about the structure of our organization and the integrity of our certification programs. Please reach out to if you would like more information.


Kelly Damewood, CEO