There’s no denying it. Organic production is on the rise.
The sale of organic products in the United States jumped from $31.5 billion in 2012 to $35.1 billion in 2013, according to the U.S. Organic Industry Survey 2014. The fruit and vegetable category continues to lead the sector with $11.6 billion in sales, up 15% from previous years.
So, what’s the deal? Why are so many producers and consumers going organic? For producers, it may be the higher premium. For consumers, it may be the need for a clean diet. Whatever the reasons are, there is no denying the fact that organics is on the rise.
As some of you may know, we presented at The Land Connection’s seminar “Organic Grain Transition” last week. Two of our sales agronomists talked about organic inputs and fertilizers along with some other experts. One thing they noticed was that organics is indeed on the rise and that more and more growers are looking to transition.
Here are their thoughts on the day:
“It was a great event with a really good turnout. There was a lot of practical information given out that people could take home and use on their organic/transition farms. One reccurring theme to me, that is consistent with what I have seen elsewhere, is that organic growers are very upbeat about their prospects for the coming year. They have good reason to be optimistic with current prices and profit opportunities. Several of the more established growers commented that landlords are contacting them, asking them to farm their ground organically. This is in sharp contrast to most conventional farmers that have to fight for more land to farm by offering higher and higher cash rents. One thing that surprised me was the stigma that some people felt when they made the switch to organic. Some felt derided by their neighbors, which seemed to be more true of the early adopters. I’m not sure it happens as much today, but one thing in the back of people’s minds considering making the transition is “what will the neighbors think?” People need to get past that and do what they think is right for their own lives.”
– Ken Musselman, Sales Agronomist, AgriEnergy Resources
“It was a great event, really well put together. It was a seminar where anyone who has interest in organic farming could get all the information they need to get started. The seminar had experienced organic growers and other experts talking about weeds, tillage, certification, bank loan information, fertilizer recommendations, organic seed, and market demand. At most meetings and seminars people can pick up bits and pieces of how to go organic, but at this seminar they got the whole package. The demand for organic food and feed is really growing. And there is increased interest from farmers to meet that demand, especially with younger producers looking to take over the operation. In fact, one of the speakers, Dave Bishop, of Atlanta, Illinois, claimed that with current prices, a conventional farmer would have to grow 720 bushels/acre to be as profitable as an organic farmer growing 180 bushels/acre.”
– Eric Johnston, Sales Agronomist, AgriEnergy Resources
“I was incredibly happy with how the event went. The interest was so strong with this seminar. We lead off with Dave Bishop, owner of Prairie Farms, who set the tone that organics is a whole different way of growing. All the speakers were so excited about being mentors for other growers. They emphasized to folks this is not just a few tweaks to get a healthy organic growing system. Farmers have to change the way they think about the land and change how they plan. One of the most common concerns is social pressure that a lot of growers face – neighbors passing by the farm and seeing weeds, seeing you hoeing at different times, not hooking up a sprayer. Organic production is not only possible, it is profitable. There are other people out there doing it and they’re on your side. The challenge is mostly in the transition years.”
– Jeff Hake, Farmer Training Program Manager, The Land Connection
Organic production has so many positives, yet Ken, Eric, and Jeff all noticed the concern growers showed in taking the first step towards transitioning. It can be a scary time (as any change), especially with today’s economic pressures. Will I still be able to support my family before I start getting the organic premium? What kind of equipment will I use? Is this even a good idea? But by the end of the day, growers started to build up their network of experts from bankers, to agronomists, to experienced farmers to guide them through the transition.
Did you go to the seminar? If so, leave your thoughts in the comments below. Didn’t make it? The Land Connection is in the process of planning a similar event in northern Illinois so be sure to check back for details.