Vermont Organic Farmers Uses FormAssembly to Set a New Standard for Organic Certification

The Form Advocate

Katy Lash, Certification Program Assistant

Case Study Snapshot

“We love how FormAssembly is designed and how it has the functionalities we need in order to meet all of our requirements,” Lash said.

Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF) uses FormAssembly to collect application and certification information for producers looking to obtain or renew organic certification on a variety of crop, livestock, and processed products. Prior to 2017, the organization relied heavily on paper forms and manual data entry.

The switch to FormAssembly helped VOF eliminate outdated paper processes, trim printing and mailing costs, and cut down on the administrative burden of slow data entry. The ability to connect their clients’ information directly to Salesforce provided a hassle-free way to track the detailed application forms received daily.

About Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF)

VOF is the USDA accredited certification program of The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT). Vermont Organic Farmers believes that organic production enhances soil, plant, animal, and human health to protect the environment for current and future generations. Organic certification is needed to verify these production practices and to ensure that organic products are produced with integrity and transparency. VOF provides consumers with a process and label they can trust. NOFA-VT is a nonprofit organization made up of farmers, gardeners, and local consumers “working to promote an economically viable and ecologically sound Vermont food system for the benefit of current and future generations.”

The organization was established in 1971, making it one of the oldest organic farming associations in the United States. Today, NOFA-VT has over 1,200 members throughout the state and through VOF certifies over 700 farms and processors to the USDA National Organic Program Standards.

The Numbers

paper applications per year, now processed by smart web forms

pages of application condensed to 1 web form

web forms in use by the organization

The Problem

In the past, there was a lot of printing and trying to keep over 700 paper applications organized, because not everyone fills out the same application. If we needed to look something up, we were rifling through packets of papers"

VOF turned to FormAssembly due to the volume of lengthy forms that they previously processed on paper. Staff mailed out applications and renewal paperwork for organic certification, producers had to fill out the same information annually whether it had changed or not, and then the same paperwork was again mailed to inspectors for their review.

One of the main issues was that clients were being asked to fill out the same information year after year, despite the fact that the majority of information they submitted did not change annually.

Additionally, VOF was shouldering the costs for printing, postage, and data entry. With the implementation of FormAssembly features, they eliminated the need to rifle through stacks of papers, and they developed a more organized system that flowed to Salesforce.

“FormAssembly allows us the ability to collect all the information we need to collect for application renewals in a very efficient way, because the data flows directly into Salesforce,” Lash said.

Use Cases

Personalized forms assist over 700 applicants per year.

“Our forms are pushing the limits for the volume of information users are submitting,” Lash shared.

VOF’s main use case is the application for organic certification. This application is used for over 700 clients per year, and it can be tailored to suit the needs of each applicant. VOF certifies everything from fresh produce, to livestock products, to shelf-stable goods, and they rely on customizable forms to gather the appropriate information from each producer.

The simplicity and design of each form is a huge help to both the staff and clients at VOF. Although not everyone who submits an application is technologically-savvy, prefilled and repeatable sections allow for a simple way to collect information from any client looking to obtain organic certification, instead of what used to be a cumbersome paper process.

“Seeds, Planting Stock, and Seedlings” section of the Crop Application

“Feed Rations” section of the Ruminant Livestock Application Form

Web forms help inspectors eliminate paper packets and ensure data accuracy

VOF also utilizes FormAssembly to streamline their site inspection process. Once an initial application form is received by VOF staff, it’s reviewed and turned over to the team’s inspectors who have a community login and can complete the inspection report section of the form. Previously, office staff would have to create elaborate paper packets to give to inspectors before they went to a client’s site to conduct the inspection.

FormAssembly’s repeatable sections cut down on the time it takes for inspectors to submit pertinent information, and the prefilled fields help ensure data accuracy. In the future, VOF’s goal is to equip their inspectors with tablets, so that they can easily complete inspection report forms while out in the field.

The Result:

Being able to collect information electronically helps us change the way that we do business and allows us, as well as our clients, real-time access to certification information"

Lash described the switch to FormAssembly as a culture change within the organization that helped them recognize the potential for further advancement. FormAssembly helps VOF accomplish lengthy application and approval processes with less time and energy. It also creates a path for seamless and fast reporting, as information is now quickly updated to their Salesforce system.

Salesforce Prefill Connector

FormAssembly’s Salesforce Prefill Connector is a huge benefit to the producers applying for certification. According to Lash, producers were previously asked to submit as many as 20 pages of information on paper annually, some of which included repetitive data. With FormAssembly, this information can be prefilled in advance to help producers avoid reporting the same information each year.

Conditional Logic Questions

The conditional logic setup within the Form Builder allows VOF to customize forms by producer.

“Everyone’s situation is unique, because it depends on what they’re certifying,” Lash said.

With conditional logic, the forms can change intuitively based on whether a producer is looking to certify seed, livestock, produce, or other goods. By implementing FormAssembly, questions only appear if they apply to certain producers.

Attachments

VOF’s clients often have to submit additional attachments as part of the application process. These can include documents, spreadsheets, and product label proofs. FormAssembly’s attachment features make it simple for applicants to attach these files directly to their application. VOF staff members benefit from the documents going directly to Salesforce, without additional scanning or uploading.

What’s Next?

“We look forward to working with FormAssembly to maximize our utilization of this amazing product! There are around 90 certification agencies like ours, working with thousands of organic producers, who are always trying to be more efficient with the paperwork required for verifying organic standards,” Lash shared.

VOF hopes to blaze a new trail for how to collect organic certification data efficiently, using updated technology. They’ve already relieved many administrative burdens of time and cost, and staff can now focus on making the web form process even more efficient.

In the future, VOF hopes to expand not only their own use of FormAssembly in innovative ways, but also to communicate the endless possibilities of web forms to like-minded organizations around the country.

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