Farm to Table, July 18, 2012
To earn a living as a farmer in the United States, farming families have, for the most part, been limited to two primary avenues: they could grow a standard, mainstream crop and connect with a large corporation that pledges to buy it or they could start a small-scale boutique farm that grows difficult-to-find produce for a selective, niche, or gourmet crowd. For many years, farmers were content to choose between these two categories.
Now, however, another type of farming has now emerged as a viable option for family farms. Suddenly, it is extremely lucrative to grow organic food.
You don’t have to look very hard to see that the interest and demand for organic foods has expanded into the mainstream. Just about every grocery store now has a substantial organic foods section because more and more people are seeking out organic fare. The result of this increased demand has been the emergence of the organic farm on the cutting edge of the farming community.
Starting in about the 1990s, interest in organic foods began to grow, gathering momentum as awareness grew. And as demand grew, Amercan farmers began to take notice. In the 1990s, the American consumer began feel forced into buying produce that had been treated with pesticides and chemically treated fertilizers with few other options. Expressing their demand for pure, healthy, organic foods has empowered consumers and they’ve watched with satisfaction as the organic food section in their local grocery store grew larger. Now, due to more and more organic farms emerging, the once-astronomical pricing of organic foods has fallen to a much more reasonable range, making organic foods even more accessible to people in just about every income bracket.
More Options For Farmers
Farmers continue to respond, and organic farming is now seen as a viable pathway to success as a farmer. While all-organic farms are one option for farmers, some farm families choose to create a hybrid of both organic and traditional types of farming within one plot of land. In this way, they can diversify their output and ease into organic farming. From the combined income generated from both traditional and organic farming, the hybrid farm keeps them paying the bills.
From garden to natural pesticides, all-organic farmers have different choices to make than traditional farmers. Whether it’s bringing in insect-eating wasps or other natural predators instead of using chemicals to deter pests or making sure their garden tools and machinery leave the smallest carbon footprint possible, organic farming requires a level of care and vigilance not present in traditional post-industrial farming. Farm families that choose to grow using these processes, however, are usually people that see the value of such work for our planet. Most often, the organic farm is a mission, a calling, a labor of love.
With local food systems like organic farms, the buying public now has more alternatives. Shoppers love feeling empowered and have a variety of healthy choices when it comes to feeding their families. Some organic farmers see a time when buying locally from an organic farmer will actually be cheaper than buying traditional fare at the grocery store.
Weekly farmer’s markets continue to provide a wonderful way for a community to sample organic foods, get to know the family growing the food, and promote a caring, cooperative vibe within a town or community. Even as organic foods establish a permanent presence in the nation’s largest grocery stores, the family farms that grow them continue to keep things simple, basic and pure.