Arizona has more organic farms

August 13, 2012

Business, Food, Organic

The number of certified organic farms in Arizona has nearly tripled — from 26 in 2006 to 77 in 2008.

by Mary Budinger

The number of certified organic farms in Arizona has nearly tripled — from 26 in 2006 to 77 in 2008, according to the most recent numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This is generally in keeping with the growth nationally. Since Michael Pollan’s 2006 book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, gave us vivid images of cattle crammed together in large factory operations and swimming in antibiotic-infused manure, people have thought more about the source and quality of the food they eat. Chef Jamie Oliver’s visits to schools and TV shows also have helped fuel the food revolution. When big players like Walmart commit to offering organic products, even large industrial players begin to seriously consider healthier, organic foods.

To put this in perspective, in 2008 only 0.7 percent of the cropland in the United States was organic. In Arizona, the number was roughly 0.1 percent. At the current growth rate, national organic cropland is expected to reach not more than 2.5 percent by 2050. Major impediments exist to scale back sustainable farmland — in fact, a significant amount of our nation’s farmland is being turned over for development. Also, the average farmer is approaching retiree age, and aspiring farmers have trouble accessing land and securing start-up capital.

Research outlets like the Rodale Institute and the Agronomy Journal  recently published long-term studies (spanning 30 years and 18 years respectively), revealing the benefits and business case for organic farming. The key takeaways from the reports are that organic agriculture outperforms conventional agriculture in terms of ecological benefits, resiliency against crop loss, profitability, long-term food production capability and soil fertility. Important data like this, (about the need for organic farming) could begin to win over skeptics, including bank loan agents, who may perceive it as a risky, unworthy pursuit. Building awareness about the value of organic farming could help break down those barriers.

Some U.S. producers are turning to certified organic farming systems as a potential way to decrease reliance on nonrenewable resources, capture high-value markets and premium prices and boost farm income. Today, more than two-thirds of U.S. consumers buy organic products at least occasionally, and 28 percent of them buy organic products weekly.

 

Mary Budinger is an Emmy award-winning journalist who writes about integrative medicine. 602-494-1999.

AzNetNews, February 2012.

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