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Organics Update

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Touch the Soil News #657 Sales of organic products are increasing by almost 10 percent a year, compared to growth of around 3 percent for non-organics. Preliminary estimates for 2017 are that spending on organics may reach close to $48 billion – a huge jump from 10 years ago when organic spending was around $19 billion. Organic purchases have reached the broader public with a recent Nielson poll showing that over 50 percent of households buy organic produce. However, most organic purchases are concentrated to a much smaller number of households. The poll reveals that only 2 percent of households spend more than 50 percent of their produce dollars on…

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Arguing For Organics

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Touch the Soil News #609 The Organic Trade Association – which represents the organic industry – has decided to bust up some of the myths about organic foods. Their claims about organic (USDA) certified include:   Organic is and always has been non-GMO. Rigorous U.S. standards apply to both domestic and imported organic foods. Products bearing the USDA Organic label are grown with no toxic pesticides and fertilizers, no antibiotics, no synthetic growth hormones, no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives and no sewage sludge or irradiation. Organic reduces health risks as they minimize exposure to toxic chemicals and pesticides. Eating organic fruits and vegetables could increase antioxidant intake by 20-40…

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Will Home Gardeners Ever Produce Their Own Milk?

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Touch the Soil News #408 Chances are they will not. But if they did, they might do it organically. Since fluid milk and its families of products such as cheese and yogurt are in many of the foods we buy, the universe of milk in general and organic milk in specifics is of impact to us all. The largest purveyor of organic milk owns a brand that we are all familiar with – Organic Valley. What makes them different is that they are a cooperative of small dairy families around the nation. The actual name of the cooperative is “Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools (CROPP).” CROPP had its beginnings…

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The Current State of Organics (and local food) in the USA

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Touch the Soil News #361 The USDA just announced that the number of domestic certified organic farms increased by 12 percent between 2014 and 2015. According to the announcement, the United States has 21,781 certified organic operations or 70 percent of the world’s 31,160 organic farms. The USDA began keeping track of organic farms in 2002. With the growth last year, the number of organic farms have increased 300 percent since 2002. Global organic food sales now top $75 billion out of which $39 billion (52 percent) takes place in the United States. Because of the cost of getting certified organic, large food companies like Costco are getting involved in…

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The World’s Largest Organic Food Vision Moves to Reality

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Touch the Soil News #316 The Times of India has just released an interesting news piece about food and farming. Sikkim, one of the smallest states in India (population 620,000) is a new test case for a much larger movement in India to go organic. This small state is banning the use of chemical-based fertilizers and pesticides and is embracing an agricultural platform of all organic. A much larger state in India – Kerala (population 34,000,000) is looking to become fully organic by year end 2016. Not to be outdone, the largest state in India – Rajasthan (population 75,000,000) has just banned the growing of Genetically Modified Crops and taken…

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Message from India – Get a Better Handle on Food

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Touch the Soil News #262 A metro area of some 1.5 million people, the city of Vijayawada, India has been recognized as a “Global City of the Future.” So what goes on in such a city so far away? For starters, they are encouraging “Terrace Organic Farming.” This is farming on terraces and rooftops. At a recent workshop, Mr. Rambabu, a former agricultural chemical consultant – turned organic – tells folks why they should change their source of fresh vegetables to their own enterprise. Mr. Rambabu explains that there is a widespread lack of knowledge among farmers in India relative to applying chemical-based fertilizers. This lack of knowledge is creating…

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Will Draft-Horse Farming Make a Comeback?

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Touch the Soil News #229 A few years back, Susan and I were fortunate to spend a couple of days with David and Debbie Mader of Horsepower Organics. The Maders farm 155 acres with Belgian draft horses in Eastern Oregon. They also breed, train and sell Belgian work-horse teams. To make the most of this enterprise, the Maders take in interns to learn the art of draft-horse farming. It came as a surprise to us that many of the interns were young women and some of them from overseas. Working as interns at Horsepower Organics (from left) Carmen Becker (Germany), Liz Bedsole (Portland) and Hattie Kugler (Vet student from Washington…

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Wyomatoes & Kelp4Less in PBS Special

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Touch the Soil News #226 Recently the Wyoming PBS aired a special program on Wyomatoes.  Wyomatoes is a unique greenhouse that raises organic tomatoes in soil. Also featured in the presentation is Brandon Mason from Kelp4Less. Mason and Kelp4Less helped Wyomatoes go organic and rise to the challenge of soil nutrition, soil biology, plant nutrition and plant health that go hand in hand with organic farming. Wyomatoes logo on the side of their delivery truck (Photo – Susan Gisin) The Wyoming PBS station produces a series of programs under the heading “Farm to Fork Wyoming.”   The series explores the growing direct to market economy – an insightful resource for the…

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Village Farms – The Changing Face of Fresh Produce

Photo courtesy of Village Farms

Touch the Soil News #170 Village Farms is one of the world’s largest greenhouse fresh-produce operations with some 250 acres of greenhouses under food production – tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and eggplant. CEO Mike DeGiglio in a recent video explains that in the 1980’s only 1 percent of retail tomatoes came from greenhouses. Today roughly 80 percent of retail tomatoes come from greenhouses. Awsome is the reaction to these super-size greenhouses – (photo courtesy of village farms) Village farms boasts that its produce ripens on the vine longer, allowing natural sugars to develop and that they have the shortest times from hand-harvest to grocery store. Recently, Mike DeGiglio was interviewed in…

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Organics by the Numbers – Is it Time to Consider a Career as an Organic Farmer?

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Touch the Soil News # 144 The Organic Trade Association (OTA) represents over 6,500 organic businesses across all 50 states. Members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers’ associations, distributors, importers, exporters, retailers and others. The OTA recently reported on the current state of Organics. “Our latest industry data show robust demand and great opportunity for the organic sector,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of OTA. Thanks to the work of the OTA, the following information is made available about organics in America. U.S. Organic Sales reached $39.1 billion in 2014, up 11.3% over 2013. (see Info Graphic #1 below) Organic non-food sales reached $3.2 billion in 2014, up…

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