So, we’re into our 11th year of Abundant Harvesting together this month. It would be easy to bore you—like when Aunt Jane and Uncle Bob took that trip to Niagara Falls and you had to sit through 200 slides of water falling off a cliff from different angles—with nostalgia, but I thought there could be some value to comparing the organic experience of then with now both from the stand-point of the farmer and the farmed-for.
Let’s start with you, the organic consumer who have driven this revolution; the free market will produce and deliver whatever people are willing to pay for. You have been persistently passionate about what fuels your family. A dozen years ago, quality organic produce was only available from a few stores that notoriously marked it up too much, but your persistence has paid-off. Today, most better stores have a decent selection of organic products fairly offered which is good for all of us.
From the farmer’s side, our organic products are highly prized by main-stream retailers coast to coast. A dozen years ago, we only had a hand-full of outlets.
I am the Treasurer of CCOF, the largest and oldest certifier of organic in the country. Last year, we adopted the vision statement of: “We envision a world where organic is the norm.” Each of these points is building on the others, and up until now, each has been positive.
But someone recently said: If you don’t like change, you were born in the wrong century. Up until recently, organic farming has been the realm of us small, very passionate producers. Organic did not lend itself to large-scale production because there was not a large-scale outlet.
As organic mainstreams, and everyone from Costco to Kroger want a piece of it, that is changing. It takes a certain level of scale and sophistication to engage and retain those large wholesale customers. Hard to do from a ma and pa operation.
For there to be change, by definition, you have to let go of here to go there. There is always something lost here getting there and this case of organic farming’s coming of age is no different.
Organic production and consumption until recently has been more about philosophy than economy. The people who started and persevered and built this organic movement were tightly networked and dependent on one another. Being a latecomer of only 15 years, I’ve always been impressed with the readiness of other organic farmers to share information they’d paid a lot of dear tuition to learn. That isn’t the case in conventional farming where neighbors are seen as competitors.
In turn, we have done our best to be a teaching farm, to pass on our own learned solutions to any who ask and thus to help new farmers and farmers new to organic to grasp the ring and start building.
Here’s what I think is so important going forward into the next decade. The integrity of organic must be upheld. The definition of organic must not only be upheld, but constantly improved. The connection between consumer and producer must not only be maintained but deepened. We own that word organic.
There’s plenty of room for known, small, local farmers in organic’s future. Just like a decade ago, all of us at AHO are really glad to be your farmers, to hoe your garden and deliver our best every week.