What is in this article?:
Delicious Living Editor-in-Chief Radha Marcum interviews farmers and industry experts in this behind-the-scenes look at the costs and challenges it takes to grow, produce, market, and get organic foods onto retailers' shelve and into consumers' shopping carts.
Early April. At Isabelle Farm, an organic market farm in Lafayette, Colorado, planting has commenced. Tender seedlings cultivated in greenhouses are ready to put down elaborate roots systems in the earth. The farm’s community-supported agriculture (CSA) and business manager, Tiffany Cooper, and several field hands transplant plots of chard, kale, and collards while I hop on the tractor with farmer-owner Jason Condon.
“Normally, the plowing we’re doing right now, I would have done last fall,” says 33-year-old Condon, a fourth-generation local farmer. “But it was really dry. As it turns out, we should have plowed then, because we didn’t get any snow.” The grassy, dandelion-flecked field he’s turning over will be planted with about 6,000 pounds of seed potato by next week. “We can’t wait any longer,” he says.
Six-year-old Isabelle Farm is a good example of where organic starts: not with a certain number of acres, but with a commitment—as rich and complex as the farm’s soil—to the principles that growing food should be a partnership with natural processes and that food should nourish and cause no harm.
In my role at Delicious Living, I talk to a lot of passionate organic entrepreneurs, certifiers, policy advocates, and researchers across the United States. And what impresses me most is this: Organic production is difficult. Yes, organic has grown into a $29 billion industry according to a recent Organic Trade Association report, but organic businesses still face significant, unique challenges that only the most persistent, smart, and lucky overcome. The next time you wonder why organic lettuce costs a dollar more than conventional, keep the following efforts in mind.