It is a critical time for organic in the marketplace. Having surpassed $55 billion in annual sales and 82% household penetration, organic products have moved firmly into the mainstream. This comes at an important moment for shoppers, farmers, and the environment. It is also a time of unprecedented confusion in the marketplace. Dozens of competing labels are crowding the shelves. Some are meaningless; others may tout one or more benefits – but none of them come close to the defined, rigorous standards and enforcement that shoppers have come to trust in organic.
In these chaotic times marked by the Covid-19 pandemic, social and economic upheaval, and already record-breaking extreme weather events taking their toll on crops and communities, people are thinking more about what it takes to be resilient. In the biological world, resilience has always been the critical underpinning for a healthy environment. Organic farming provides that resilience, and helps farms and whole ecosystems bounce back in the face of biological disturbance, particularly in the context of environmental disasters associated with climate change.
Organic Trade Association members face the challenge head-on with innovative initiatives
Planting trees in the Peruvian Amazon, working with dairy farms to improve soil health, transforming farmland to regenerative agriculture, installing new solar panels, designing fully recyclable or compostable food packaging, reducing food waste. Ambitious, diversified, visionary projects underway by organic companies, with one common goal – to fight against climate change.
In an introductory letter to GRAIN BY GRAIN: A Quest to Revive American Wheat, Rural Jobs, and Healthy Food, Jaime Jennings writes, “You hold in your hands the story of an unsung hero. Bob Quinn is a straight-shooting, small-town farmer who turned his family farm into an organic multimillion dollar heirloom grain company.”
President and Founder of Organic Trade Association member Kamut International, Quinn, who co-authored the book with Liz Carlisle, shares his practical wisdom from a lifetime of farming--and scientific discovery.
World pesticide use has reached nearly 6 billion pounds per year, with the United States alone accounting for over 20% of that use. The Environmental Protection Agency has registered and approved almost 1,400 pesticides with over 900 active ingredients for use in the U.S. The majority are used on conventional farms in the form of synthetic herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and fumigants.
Today’s organic farmers, like all farmers, are consummate problem solvers and masters of many skills. However, reliable assistance and educational tools to successfully deal with the daily challenges of their operations are often lacking.
The success of organic as a production system and the ability to overcome challenges that discourage farmers from transitioning to or expanding organic production rely on connections and communication between multiple groups of stakeholders.
This past May, The Organic Center held the first Organic Confluences Summit, aimed at examining the intersection of science and policy to find ways for the two to come together to advance the organic sector. The conference focused on sustainability, with scientific experts, farmers, policymakers, and organic stakeholders gathering in D.C. to discuss how research on organic’s contributions to the environment can be incorporated into government programs to improve the sustainability of U.S. agriculture.