Thanks to consumers who expect more from their food, current organic demand remains strong in many sectors despite the economic downturn, making it a bright spot in U.S. agriculture. But the nation needs many more organic farmers. While organics now represents about 3 percent of all food purchased in the United States, only one percent of U.S. farmlands are currently under organic production. The Rodale Institute is working at both the federal and state level to help farmers make the switch to organic production. With Institute research providing strong support, Pennsylvania has dedicated $500,000 to a landmark program to help farmers offset the cost of organic transition.
Organic food is still a bargain, looking at its full value. “The cost of non-organic food doesn’t include the loss of topsoil or crop-disaster relief, health concerns, climate change or dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay and Gulf of Mexico,” says the Institute’s LaSalle. “If you factor in all that, conventional chemically grown food is actually much more expensive than organically produced food.”
Through their persistent commitment to higher standards, Nature’s Path and Organic Valley can connect consumers with these deeper beneﬁts. “Today’s leading-edge business values of transparency, a ‘triple-bottom line,’ employee empowerment, humane animal practices, sustainable ﬁnancial goals and lifestyle changes are ones that we have long advocated as part of the organic movement,” says Organic Valley CEO George Siemon.
Organic farming keeps family farmers on the land, carbon in the soil, and families and communities living productive, healthy lives. By supporting farmers and companies dedicated to social equity and the environment, by encouraging elected ofﬁcials to reward farmers who practice ecological stewardship (“carbon over commodities,” quips LaSalle), and by advancing all the good things that organic agriculture accomplishes through our wise food choices, we can meet the most pressing challenges of our day.
One organic bite at a time.
Rodale demo garden, rich with compost
Dan Sullivan is an environmental journalist who formerly worked at Organic Gardening magazine and the Rodale Institute.
Composting animal manures along with plant biomass produces what J.I. Rodale termed “black gold.” Even compost without farm animal manures fosters biodiversity in your garden so that, aboveground, the good bugs keep the bad ones in check and, belowground, a rich microbial community means more beneﬁcial relationships that improve the soil structure, ﬁght disease, sequester carbon and help plants take up nutrients and water more efﬁciently.