In my recent travels across America, one thing has become abundantly clear: Demand for organic food is soaring. The current organic market has grown to more than $35 billion in annual sales, and with companies like Walmart and Target making organic widely available, its growth is expected to continue. Supply, on the other hand, is not growing fast enough to meet demand. There’s just not enough organic food to go around in the U.S., so producers are now going overseas to help meet America’s increasing call for organic foods.
American Farmers, this is a big opportunity!
George Siemon, CEO of Organic Valley, which is now a billion-dollar cooperative of dairy farmers, has seen a 15 percent growth rate in the past year—but can only fill 60 percent of his orders. Recently, when I spoke to him after he received the Rodale Institute’s Organic Pioneer Award, he said, “We’ve gone through the Dark Ages, and butter is back in.” But he still can’t find enough farmers to supply it.
And it’s not just the big food companies that are having a hard time finding supply. In Boulder, Colorado, I met a young goat farmer. More than anything, she would like to find certified-organic alfalfa to feed her goats, but she can’t “at any price.” (Her name is Taber Ward, and she’s at Mountain Flower Goat Dairy, if you have a source for her.)
Organic CSAs and small farmer’s markets have gotten the bulk of the media/mind share attention (and have been rising steeply in number in the past few years: up 76 percent since 2008). But there’s a real need right now for large-scale production so that American consumers can buy the organic foods they desire at their local supermarkets.
Small local farms alone aren’t enough to save the world. Transitioning the world to organic is the only way we can store enough carbon underground in the soil to stop climate change from destroying our ability to survive on this planet. Yes, regenerative organic farming can reverse climate change—and people want to buy its harvests!
American Farmers: If the American public—the free market—is demanding clean, healthy, organic foods free of pesticides, herbicides, and GMOs, don’t you want to be the ones to supply it rather than let other countries do it? Countries that ban the use of GMOs, such as Japan, Australia, and the entire European Union, are supplying our country’s food and earning our dollars. American Farmer, you can help change this. You can help meet the growing demand for organic foods across this country and help bring American dollars back to American food producers.
Companies like Applegate and Chipotle are eager for organic meats and organic feed for the animals in their supply chains. Right now, they have to go to Europe and China to meet consumer demands. Or substitute with nonorganic products, which disappoints their customers.
Have no fear of change. I have seen my Mennonite neighbors, who almost went bankrupt as chemical dairy farmers, save their farms by transitioning to organic. Organic Valley was there to help them along the way, and the cooperative can help you, too. I have seen lives changed, farms saved, and families’ health transformed by the switch to organic.
By not meeting organic demand, we are outsourcing our futures. American Farmers, you are losing out on potential growth that’s now going to farmers overseas. Not to mention you’re subjecting yourselves and the planet to toxic chemicals like 2-4, D and to ever-tougher superweeds. I know you love the look of a weed-free field, but there are better, healthier ways to get it than by using harmful chemicals. I beg you to consider going organic.
If we truly want to feed the world—to change the world—we need both big and small farmers to go organic. In other words, we need all farmers. Everywhere. Switch to organic. People and producers are willing to pay you well and help you succeed. You are not alone!
I would love to start my own hydroponic greenhouse and provide these fresh, organic produce year round in Maine, but funds don’t allow it. Raising the money is nearly impossible. I don’t see where that much can be raised for a project such as that. I would have to reach out far and I don’t know where to go. It has always been my dream to own a garden and a farm stand. Would love to join this and provide organic in my area, but impossible.
I fantasize about having an organic farm, raising produce (food) and hens for sale and use… but alas, funds do not permit at this season of my life. Additionally, I live in a 55+ community that doesn’t permit me to grow more than a few tomatoes and salad greens. If anyone knows a way to actively create a farming community for seniors in St. Petersburg, FL please supply! 🙂
Cheryl – fortunately that may be changing as the internet helps connect dreamers and doers with people that care! Sites like kickstarter, and my new-favorite (recently launched) https://www.barnraiser.us/ are out there for people with big dreams + concrete plans. Come up with a plan and make it happen! 🙂
Start small and GROW….:)
To both ladies that left comments..Cheryl and Lynn.I too dream of gardening an have for many years around my home in Jacksonville.Maybe sow a seed @ a school yard,or church.Good luck maybe in the future everyone’s dream to garden will cross each others path Good luck!
What we need is a website that we can trust 100% to give our donations to and know that those handling our donations will get the money to people, farmers, etc. who want to grow organic food. Some of us tried that locally and found our donations were NOT going to the people who really needed the help. I only buy organic food and only in stores that I trust to be selling truly organic products. So in that way I hope I am helping those farmers to stay in business, but there must be a way to get some dollars to those who want to start up from the bottom and not have to go into deep debt to do it.
I can’t save the world but we grow most of our vegetables. We have been gardening all our lives. We do grow organic and I do a lot of canning and freezing for the winter. And believe it or not, a small garden will produce enough for you, your family and enough to share with neighbors!!
Unfortunately, the current USDA label for Organic CANNOT be trusted. what we need is to remove the corporate hold on our food supply, starting with Monsanto.
Only when we remove the current corporate and Federal chokehold will full organic food supplies be possible.
Great article with conclusions that mirror my own research. My company, Mighty Grow Organics, manufactures OMRI listed organic fertilizer at our pilot plant in rural SW Alabama. With a production capacity of 20,000 tons per year, we are working to meet the growing demand for organic soil inputs from farmers in the SE US.
An alternative to USDA certified organic farming is to partner with an organization like Certified Naturally Grow (www.naturallygrown.org). BTW, I have NO affiliation with CNG. Their model is just as strict as the USDA but without all the paperwork and expense. Something to consider.
Good luck to all the organic/sustainable growers who are working to meet the market’s demand. You all have my utmost respect and admiration. Anyone that grows food for another is a true hero.
I am still at my same weight since 1998. My physician said part of the reason was because I eat organic food and watch what I eat. I also walk a lot. I am 58 and doing amazingly well with my health. We all need to come together and get this done a little at a time because you can’t just rush in and have everything go well. It is a real co-operative effort, especially with farmers. We’ll eventually get it through everyone’s head and get it done. If not, then those who won’t, will suffer the consequences and sadly, so will the children.
Good morning everyone and thank you for the blog, Eileen.
I think a lot of American farmers are feeling the need and would like to do something about it but, unfortunately, the effects of industrial mono-farming aren’t erased overnight. It takes YEARS of organic practices and stringent record keeping to ‘go certified organic’ and get that label. Many small farmers step outside that system to produce ‘sustainably grown/no spray/raised with organic practices” type food that they sell in local farmers markets, but what do the larger farmers do for income while they transition to organic? Instead of subsidizing gmo corn, the government should subsidize farmers who want to make that vital transition, thereby insuring that doing a good thing for the world doesn’t ‘cost them the farm’? Just an idea…
Lynn in St. Petersburg, FL
I currently have a project in the works for seniors…I’d be happy to have a coffee with you over the telephone or via email…Cheers, Twila @ hm dot ca
Sally Boydstun: may I quote your words on my face book page?
@Twila – Sure.
Information should be freely shared, just as critical thinking should be taught early on so personal truth can be plucked from the sea of propaganda and political/business agendas.
And thanks for asking. 🙂
We are currently leaving our home in the Denver Metro area to begin a desperate attempt to save our families organic farm in Yellow Jacket, Colorado. I’d love to speak to you about applying your needs to our land and vise-versa. Any insight would be greatly appreciated for your expertise outweighs my desire. Please feel free to contact me with any information you have available. I will checkback often. Thank you!