In my recent travels across America, one thing has become abundantly clear: Demand for organic food is soaring. The current organic market has grown to more than $35 billion in annual sales, and with companies like Walmart and Target making organic widely available, its growth is expected to continue. Supply, on the other hand, is not growing fast enough to meet demand. There’s just not enough organic food to go around in the U.S., so producers are now going overseas to help meet America’s increasing call for organic foods.
American Farmers, this is a big opportunity!
George Siemon, CEO of Organic Valley, which is now a billion-dollar cooperative of dairy farmers, has seen a 15 percent growth rate in the past year—but can only fill 60 percent of his orders. Recently, when I spoke to him after he received the Rodale Institute’s Organic Pioneer Award, he said, “We’ve gone through the Dark Ages, and butter is back in.” But he still can’t find enough farmers to supply it.
And it’s not just the big food companies that are having a hard time finding supply. In Boulder, Colorado, I met a young goat farmer. More than anything, she would like to find certified-organic alfalfa to feed her goats, but she can’t “at any price.” (Her name is Taber Ward, and she’s at Mountain Flower Goat Dairy, if you have a source for her.)
Organic CSAs and small farmer’s markets have gotten the bulk of the media/mind share attention (and have been rising steeply in number in the past few years: up 76 percent since 2008). But there’s a real need right now for large-scale production so that American consumers can buy the organic foods they desire at their local supermarkets.
Small local farms alone aren’t enough to save the world. Transitioning the world to organic is the only way we can store enough carbon underground in the soil to stop climate change from destroying our ability to survive on this planet. Yes, regenerative organic farming can reverse climate change—and people want to buy its harvests!