U.S. demand for organic food has increased, faster than farmers can grow their products. Farmers are doing all they can to satisfy flourishing organic appetites, but it’s coming at a price that’s stretching farmland and finances. CCTV America’s Ginger Vaughn reported this story from Houston.
Demand for organic food soars in the United StatesU.S. demand for organic food has increased, faster than farmers can grow their products. Farmers are doing all they can to satisfy flourishing organic appetites, but it's coming at a price that's stretching farmland and finances. CCTV America's Ginger Vaughn reported this story from Houston.
Note: Data for 2012-2014 are estimates. Sources: USDA, Economic Research Service using data from Nutrition Business Journal.
Ripe crops are ready for picking at Wood Duck Farm in Cleveland, Texas, about an hour outside of Houston. Owner Van Weldon says every year he’s busy producing more organic crops to satisfy growing sales.
“We’re getting calls from sources we never thought we’d hear from,” Weldon said. “What is going on is, I think, is convenience, with quality, with good food. Organic grown food.”
U.S. retail sales of organic food more than tripled between 2004-2014 from $11.1 billion to nearly $36 billion, according to the Organic Trade Association. Globally, a new market research report by MarketsandMarkets forecasts that by 2015, the organic food and beverages market will reach $104.5 billion, up from $57.2 billion in 2010.
While customers may be willing to pay more for organic products, farmers are finding it difficult to keep up with demand, partially because it costs more for a farm to go organic and funding doesn’t come easy for non-traditional farmers.
“To use the right compost, to leave certain amount of your acreage for your cover crop in a fallow-type environment for a season, it takes patience and time and money,” Weldon said. “The problem is when you buy raw land like where I live it’s piney woods, you have to pay for it to get it cleared and that can be expensive.匨ore than likely a commercial bank is not going to loan you money without some kind of collateral.”
Weldon’s customers appreciate his use of organic methods. But he doesn’t spend the thousands it costs for certifications through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, partly because of the three-year wait for a conventional farm to become organic certified.
Even without the organic label, Weldon’s customer base has almost quadrupled in the last decade because due to community supported agriculture, or CSA programs — a concept that began in Europe and Japan decades ago. CSA programs allow consumers to buy directly from local farmers.
“So basically it’s farms that create a program where customers say hey, I’ll pay you in advance for part of your crop that you’ll harvest in two, three months whatever and, in return, I know where my food is coming from,” Weldon said. “It has grown nationwide, so from coast to coast, Canada to Texas there are farms throughout the country that are doing this program.”
More customers in cities are taking advantage of local farm programs that bring organic food to their table. Those who only shop organic say paying more is a no-brainer and comes with long-term health benefits.
“I think it just has to be health. People learning that they need to take better care of themselves. To eat better and healthier which means organic,” said Nicole Grunn, a customer at Wood Duck farm.
Some experts said that if the number of organic farms increase, organic food prices would decrease.
Author Mary Beth Albright discusses growth in organic food
CCTV America’s Asieh Namdar interviewed Mary Beth Albright, a food writer, food attorney, and author of “How Apples Grow” about the international growth in demand for organic food.