RODALE NEWS, STATE COLLEGE, PA—This wasn't just a loose gathering of statewide farming friends meeting up to shoot the, uh, compost. Although jovial in nature, Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture's (PASA's) 19th Annual Farming for the Future conference featured a feisty undertone, with attendees vowing to amp up efforts to stand up against an industrial food system propped up by chemicals and genetically engineered crops. And PASA's argument for the viability of organic ag just grew even stronger. Last Wednesday, timed to the kick off of the conference, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its first ever wide-scale survey of organic producers, done in response to the growing interest in organics among consumers, farmers, businesses, policymakers, and others, according to Kathleen Merrigan, agriculture deputy secretary of the USDA. The numbers add up to more organic edibles reaching your table, either directly from farmers, or as fresh food that gets packaged food at your supermarket.
THE DETAILS: The 2008 Organic Production Survey released last week found that while certified-organic farmers and ranchers do invest more in production costs, they also gain a higher return on their investment. The survey counted 14,540 U.S. certified-organic farms and ranches in 50 states, covering 4.1 million acres of U.S. land. Twenty percent of organic farms were located in California, the state that led the country in organic sales; Washington, Pennsylvania, and Oregon followed. Most organic producers sold their products locally, with 44 percent of sales taking place less than 100 miles from the farm. Most sales were wholesale, going to processors, millers, and packers, with 7 percent being sold directly to consumers through farm stands, farmer's markets, or community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs.
Read on to find out how to find sustainable farms in your area.