Organic Farming News and Trends


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In the United States and many parts of the world, west, east and south, organic farming and sustainable agriculture are becoming mainstream.  Most large supermarket chains now carry at least a few organic vegetables, fruits and meats.  As consumers become more concerned about the dangers of herbicides and pesticides that are found in traces on inorganic produce, the demand for safer, organic products continues to increase, despite the additional premium in price.

What is a good price for healthy food? 

In addition to concerns about our own health, many parents are aware of the added risks associated with exposing children to harsh chemicals used in conventional farming.  Experts say that children are more vulnerable due to their smaller size, the fact that they are growing, and the greater risks of long-term exposure.  Using dangerous chemicals at home is also a concern especially for children and small pets.  For example, children and pets who play or spend time on lawns, may be harmed by the herbicides we use to control weeds. Children living in homes using pesticides (indoor or outdoor) are at higher risk for developing brain cancer, childhood leukemia, lymphoma, and asthma, as reported by Safer Pest Control Project.

In addition to direct consumer benefits, indirectly we all benefit by reducing the amount of poisonous chemicals that inorganic farms dump into rivers, seas and water tables that are the essential sustenance of all people, fish, flora and fauna.  The ecological health is especially critical to consumers at the top of the food chain, such as humans and larger land and sea animals.

As organic farms are becoming more numerous, conventional farms are beginning to take a defensive position.  Here we look at the latest news articles on the pros and cons of organic farming, both from the perspective of organic agriculture and inorganic or conventional growers and industry advocates.  By scanning through various articles you may be the first to perceive some of the trends that are just beginning today.

Starting a Farm?

If you're interested in starting an organic farm of your own, these news articles include the stories of numerous startups in various parts of the world as well as conventional to organic farm conversions.  Read the introductory articles displayed on the right column for background information.  In many states, the university extension or agricultural department may help with education and advisory services for specific crops.  Several universities now offer specific courses and certification for organic farming expertise.

New Trends?

For example, most organic farmers have been smaller family-owned entities.  Has the time arrived for larger corporations to see the "organic" light?  Can some of the organic practices be adopted by inorganic farms, as well?  Is the average consumer reaching a higher or lower threshold of tolerance for cheaper, less healthy food?  Can genetically modified (GM) organisms co-exist with organic farming standards, or are they the "natural enemy" of the organic farming concept?  Are there some new "organic" standards and certification systems being established for farmers in the United States and other regions?

Organic Farming and Marketing:
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Bad spinach good for local farmers:  MARSHFIELD — Farming doesn't get much more local than it does at Wellspring Farm's community-supported agriculture operation. State and federal investigators in California, which grows 74 percent of the nation's fresh spinach crop, have been investigating an outbreak of a strain of E. coli bacteria that has sickened more than 21 people in 21 states., David Gram, September 22, 2006

Indians struggle to digest claims of poisoned foods: SIMBHAOLI, India, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Under the scorching afternoon sun, Babu Khan crouches over his crops gently pulling out stray weeds from his small plot on the fringes of Simbhaoli, a town in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Reuters AlertNet, Nita Bhalla, September 20, 2006

Organic farmers face hazards:  WASHINGTON — Besides paying higher production costs than conventional farms, U.S. organic growers are facing another challenge: the outsourcing of America's organic crop demand to foreign countries, including Mexico and China, where cheap farm labor gives overseas agribusinesses an edge. Palm Beach Post, Kylene Kiang, September 17, 2006

Crop diversification benefits Malawi farmers:  Unlike many countries in the developing world Malawi remains largely rural, with 80 percent of its people depending on the land for subsistence.  Trócaire teamed up with the development arm of the Catholic Church in Malawi, Cadecom, to introduce new farming techniques and environmental conservation to the people worst affected. ReliefWeb, Trócaire, Orla Fagan, September 11, 2006

Counter Agriculture:  Inside the calculated madness of organic farming - Covelli had also been selling a sweet and smoky tomatillo salsa and a spicy jalapeno-infused organic Bloody Mary mix. Tomatillos, domesticated by the Aztecs in 800 B.C., are generally a staple of Mexico. Newcity Chicago, Michael Nagrant, September, 2006

It’s in their nature:  Whether by initiative or inheritance, women represent growing presence in farming - From 1997 to 2002, Ohio had a nearly 30 percent increase in the number of women primarily responsible for the daily operation of a farm, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. During the same period, every county in central Ohio gained female farmers, and several increased their number by more than 50 percent. The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio, Monique Curet, September 10, 2006

'To stay in farming we have to do something different':  A farmer is shifting 240 hectares of his land outside Harpenden to organic production, the first major conversion in the St Albans area.  Although he anticipates his organic fields will produce less than half the crop yields, this will be balanced by the increased price., UK, Alex Lewis, September, 2006

Pro-genetic engineering measure fails at end of session:  Organic farming advocates declare victory - SACRAMENTO - Local bans of genetically modified crops can still be enacted in California.  Organic farming advocates and GM critics declared victory after Senate Bill 1056, authored by Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, failed to clear an important Senate committee hurdle. Capital Press, Ali Bay, September 8, 2006

Young farmers a dwindling crop:  Agriculture remains an “old boys (and girls) enterprise.”  The nationally-recognized Farm Beginnings course provides participants an opportunity to learn firsthand about low-cost, sustainable methods of farming. Austin Daily Herald, Lee Bonorden, September 8, 2006

Danisco to bring fair trade vanilla to US market: Danish ingredients firm Danisco is to launch a full line of fair trade certified vanilla products in the US market, the company announced this week.  Danisco said that is able to offer fair trade conventional and organic vanilla while still providing a “competitive price” to its customers., Lorraine Heller, September 8, 2006

Agriculture Ministry urges organic cultivators to get registered:  He pointed out that the organic label was an assurance given to the consumer that the product met organic standards. "In the world, market organic goods are given premium prices, they command five times to 20 times more (than) the price given to the non-organic products," he noted. Jamaica Gleaner News, September 7, 2006

The Scoop On Dirt:  Why We Should all Worship the Ground We Walk On - It is a substance few people understand and most take for granted. Yet, it is arguably one of Earth’s most critical natural resources—and humans, quite literally, owe to it their very existence., Tamsyn Jones, September, 2006

Whole lot of shakin': Almonds don't fall far from the tree in this family business - CHICO -- There's a surreal calmness in the orchard as Maisie Jane Hurtado makes her way between the rows of almond trees. Sunshine streams through the branches and dapples an orchard floor that's so clean it seems artificial. Sacramento Bee, Gwen Schoen, September 6, 2006

Organic milk is healthier? Don't swallow it:  The claim that organic milk is richer in omega-3s than conventional milk - and therefore better for us - is a lot of bull.  The popular press is going cow-wild over research that supposedly proves ‘organic’ milk is healthier than ‘conventional’ milk. Not quite., Alex Avery, September 6, 2006

Market boosts organic while GMOs wane:   HUMBOLDT – Genetically engineered crops are being upstaged by organic farming in Humboldt, as biotech trends continue to be offset by economic and political forces.  With Humboldt’s organic farming economy ascending, the use of genetically modified crops is believed to be on the wane, as local dairies are increasingly switching from conventional to organic production. The Arcata Eye, Daniel Mintz, September 5, 2006

Go Organic: No chemicals, genetically modified ingredients or additives... why are you waiting to make the switch?  Beyond the fact organic fruit and vegetables are more expensive than their non-organic counterparts, what do we really know about them? Here are our Top 10 reasons to go organic., Murray Cheek, September 5, 2006

Gandhi of organic farming honoured: UMERGAM (VALSAD): It may be hard to imagine a fertile 14-acre plot of farmland, which includes an orchard as well as paddy field, yielding a bumper crop without any artificial fertiliser or pesticide. The Times of India, Anahita Mukherji, September 4, 2006

Fueling Ag Growth - Could seeds used to make biodiesel be Snohomish County’s next cash crop?:  Once harvested, the canola and mustard seeds will be crushed into oil. The oil will be analyzed, with researchers measuring volume per acre as well as oil grade. An economic analysis by the U.S. Department of Agriculture will accompany the scientific one, detailing the cost of crop production. Snohomish County Business Journal, Kimberly Hilden, September, 2006

Organic research grows in valley:  USDA expert leads way, may get help if Salinas facility built - On 22 acres at the edge of Salinas, U.S. Department of Agriculture researcher Eric Brennan experiments on the cutting edge of organic production.  Local growers say Brennan's work is incredibly valuable to their growing interest in organic farming, the fruits of which were worth more than $155 million last year in Monterey County, California, according to the agricultural commissioner's crop report. Monterey County Herald, Dania Akkad, August 31, 2006

Organic milk: Udderly delicious - It's official, organic milk is better for you - as Richard Parks can attest. And now his dairy farm has won the Soil Association's top award.  Instead of using chemical fertilisers the fields here are fed with nothing more than compost, manure and lashings of rain. Independent Online, UK, Phil Boucher, August 31. 2006

Organic At A Glance:  Organic refers to the way agricultural products—foods and fibers—are grown and processed. It is an ecological system of management that at its core relies on a healthy rich soil to produce strong plants that resist pests and diseases., Hawaii, All Islands, August 30, 2006

UF Offers Organic Farming Major:  GAINESVILLE -- As organic food becomes a bigger presence on the shelves of major grocery stores, the University of Florida is following suit by expanding the study and research of organic farming. The Ledger, New York Times, Nathan Crabbe, August 30, 2006

Try an Organic Hot Dog, Meet an Organic Farmer at Organic Valley's First-Ever Minnesota State Fair Exhibit:  Organic Valley to Give Away Thousands of Organic Prairie Hot Dogs, Stringles Organic String Cheese, Organic Valley Milk, Coupons and More at the Co-Op's Largest Sampling Event Ever. Organic Valley, La Farge, WI, Press Release, August 29, 2006

Home Grown - Across the Seven Cities, more and more people are stressing the advantages of buying locally: Food production and distribution are colossal businesses. Industrial farming has practically eliminated the small farmer. As a result, our food travels an average of 2,000 miles to reach our local supermarket. Portfolio Weekly, Andrea Marshall, August 29, 2006

Veggie Lovers Turning To CSAs: Before growing season starts, members buy a share of the upcoming crop at an average cost of about $400. Then throughout the season, members receive a set amount of whatever is being harvested.  A study found savings of between 60 and 150 percent over retail prices for the same amount of organic produce., John Reger, August 28, 2006

Stewards of wine land:  The growers of nearly half of the wine grapes in California have signed on to a code of sustainable practices, an unprecedented step for a major crop. They are using cover crops to control erosion and improve soil fertility. They are listening to nonfarming neighbors with concerns about expansion plans or pesticides. And, they're conserving water with precision irrigation. Sacramento Bee, Jim Downing, August 28, 2006

Green dream vanishes in puff of reality: After decades of promoting economic development regardless of the environmental consequences, China's leaders are now talking about "sustainable development" as they face record oil prices, energy supply concerns and widespread social unrest prompted by toxic spills, smog and polluted waterways., The Sydney Morning Herald, Mary-Anne Toy, August 26, 2006

Monkeys, boars enjoy crops, farmers suffer: The villagers allege that Rampuri started to face this problem since the monkey-laden trucks from Shimla started being emptied near the Khud which flows very close to the village. Jeet Ram Sharma, who spends his entire day guarding crops against monkeys, seems depressed as he takes a stroll through the maize fields. Chandigarh Newsline, Hem Lata Verma, August 26, 2006

Black Farms, Black Markets: Brought up on a farm in Jamaica, where farming is the second-largest industry, Haughton immigrated to America in 1983, earning a living as a farmworker until he was able to buy his own thirty-acre farm in Clintondale, New York. The Nation, Habiba Alcindor, August 24, 2006

High design, low environmental impact - Austin textile designer making 'green' fashionable: Conventionally grown cotton takes a high toll on the environment, using enormous amounts of agricultural chemicals: An environmentally acceptable alternative is available: organically grown cotton., Jean Scheidnes, August 24, 2006

Stocks, Bonds & Fresh Veggies In Your Portfolio - Investing In Local Farms Can Be A Cheap Way Of Getting Produce: BOSTON Instead of stocking up of vegetables at the supermarket or local grocery store, some consumers are opting to get their veggies by investing in local farms, which provide a portion of each harvest's crop., August 24, 2006

Hard Labor: The Grimmway packing plant in Arvin, California, a drab farmworker town fifteen miles southeast of Bakersfield, is where carrots go to be reborn. After months of being coaxed and weeded in the nearby fields, the vegetables are yanked from the ground by a mechanical harvester. The Nation, Felicia Mello, August 24, 2006

Dairy farmers switching to organic: DRYDEN — It was either change to organic dairy farming or get out, said Troy Sherman of Sherman Farm, where Tuesday about 90 farmers heard about biological farming. Creating better animal feed resulted in healthier animals. He showed pictures of cows lounging in a field and said his “oldest cow is 17 years-old, and she's pregnant again.” The Ithaca Journal, New York, Linda Stout, August 23, 2006

GM potatoes for UK 'in 10 years' : A chemical company has asked for permission to grow the first trial crop of genetically modified (GM) potatoes in the UK.  Two genes from wild potatoes have been discovered which make them resistant to late blight - the disease which caused the Irish potato famine. BBC News, UK, August 23, 2006

Aurora Organic Dairy Continues Collaboration With Colorado State University, Supports Inaugural Organic Agriculture Program: Scholarships Earmarked for Each Student Enrolled in New Organic Curriculum.  Beginning this semester, the Colorado State organic agriculture program will provide a unique opportunity for students to explore organic agriculture and production. Yahoo! Finance Press Release, August 22, 2006

Coffee with a conscientious kick:  Not only can crop certification give farmers a better deal, in Peru one system is slowing deforestation. The range of certifications available allows retailers to capture a larger share of the ethical consumer market by offering a product that guarantees stringent social and environmental conditions. Financial Times Deutschland, Business-English, von Hal Weitzman, August 22, 2006

State legisature passes Leno-Devore measure allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp: SACRAMENTO - Assembly Bill 1147 authored by Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine), permitting California farmers to grow industrial hemp for the sale of seed, oil and fiber to manufacturers passed the State Assembly yesterday on a vote of 43 to 28. The bill will now go to the Governor's desk for his signature., From the Office of California Assemblyman Mark Leno, August 22, 2006

Organic opportunity: With 690ha (1700 acres) of good wheat growing land in Hertfordshire, Ian Pigott would not be high up many impartial observers' lists as a candidate for organic conversion.  So why on a farm that is capable of averaging over 8t/ha of wheat, 3.5-3.75t/ha of oilseed rape and 4.5-5t/ha of winter beans is he making the switch to a system that will expose him to lower yields and, arguably, more risk? Farmers Weekly, UK, August 21, 2006

Crop of questions: As the debate rages on about the pros and cons of genetically modified (GM) crops, Vibha Sharma talks to a cross section of experts from various fields and puts together varying viewpoints on this complex issue. The Sunday Tribune, India, Spectrum, Vibha Sharma, August 20, 2006

Sowing the seed: Going organic at Foxburrow Farm, Melton is today benefiting both wildlife and resident farmer Nigel Rolph - whose family have farmed Foxburrow alongside their adjoining farm for many years. Evening Star, UK, August 19, 2006

Debate over biocrops heats up: Environmentalists, organic farmers in duel with growers over bill.  SACRAMENTO — Negotiations are heating up over legislation, Senate Bill 1056, that would prevent local governments from banning genetically modified seeds. One of the most closely watched agriculture bills of the year, the legislation pits large-scale growers against environmentalists and organic farmers., E. J. Schultz, August 17, 2006

Micro mania: Tiny, trendy, tasty: Microgreens from two North Texas greenhouses prove that what's good for the chef is good for the grower. They're microgreens, and they're popping up on trendy restaurant plates all over the Metroplex: micro-basil and cilantro, arugula and mustard, kale and cabbage, beets and broccoli, Asian greens like tat soi and bok choy, vivid red amaranth, even micro-celery. Star-Telegram, Amy Culbertson, August 15, 2006

Adopt-a-tree program helps people connect with farming: For the second season in a row, farmer and writer David Mas Masumoto invited the public to adopt the trees as a way to support his efforts to preserve older varieties of peaches from obsolescence. For $250, sponsors got to spend two Saturdays harvesting as many peaches from their adopted trees as they could cart away, enjoying a taste of summers past and the chance to connect with nature. The Mercury News, Olivia Munoz, Associated Press, August 15, 2006

Genetically modified crops will cost: Public attitudes to genetically engineered food are now universally negative, reflected in the fact that key markets in the EU, Japan and China are now removing GE / GM products from consumer products, meaning organic and non-GE / GM products are attracting increasing premiums. On Line Opinion, Australia, James Norman and Louise Sales, August 14, 2006

Growers able to sell their foods for more: Ms. Miller is one of many small and large growers who are able to sell their foods for more by creating a product with a higher value than the raw food alone. Traditionally, farmers relied on federal subsidies to help them get through lean years. Now, with the ability to add value to crops and sell them for more, many farmers have an additional layer of protection. The Frederick News Post, Joseph M. deLeon, August 13, 2006

Benguet university pushes mushroom production: Judging from the experience of Dr. Janet Luis of Benguet State University here, oyster mushrooms are as good a cash crop as strawberries. “Growing them also makes a pitch for organic farming since mushrooms need no fertilizer or other chemicals,” she added. INQ7Money, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Delmar Cariño, August 13, 2006

Nation's Largest Organic Milk Marketer 'Deceiving Consumers': Legal Complaint Filed by The Cornucopia Institute at USDA - One of the nation's most aggressive organic watchdogs filed a formal legal complaint today against the country's leading organic brand, Horizon, alleging a well-financed campaign to "greenwash" milk produced at factory farms that fail to meet USDA regulatory standards. . AScribe Newswire, Washington, August 10, 2006

Regulatory red light fuels GM-research debate: An application by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to conduct greenhouse experiments on transgenic sorghum in South Africa has been denied by the South African genetically-modified organisms (GMO) regulatory body. Creamer Media's Engineering News Online, South African Industry News, August 10, 2006

Feeding Ourselves: Organic Urban Gardens in Caracas, Venezuela - This 1.2-acre plot tucked into what was an empty lot is part of a plan led by the government of President Hugo Chavez to shift the Venezuelan economy toward what it calls "endogenous development." Defined by its roots, the word "endogenous" means "inwardly creating," which is what the leaders of the Bolivarian Revolution would like to make the economy of Venezuela. Toward Freedom, April M. Howard, August 10, 2006

There's No Plate Like Home: Our writer vows to only eat food produced within a 100-mile radius. Which is great, unless if you love coffee.  The 100-Mile Diet is the brainchild of Vancouver writer Alisa Smith and her partner, former Adbusters editor J.B. MacKinnon. After learning that the ingredients in the average North American meal travel between 1,500 and 2,500 miles from farm to plate — as much as 25 percent farther than they did two decades ago — the green-minded couple decided to make some lifestyle changes. Philadelphia City Paper,, Elisa Ludwig, August 10, 2006

From that first crop of garlic, Pleasant Lake Farm grew: Being a fan of garlic, Karen Lee discovered it was hard to find it locally grown. It was also November, the ideal time for planting garlic but not much else. Using 35 pounds of cloves, she planted them with organic fertilizer and hoped for the best. The Boston Globe, Diana Kuan, August 9, 2006

Eat To Live: No confidence in `Organic` - Eat To Live reported in April that the Cornucopia Institute of Wisconsin, a non-profit agricultural policy research group, found after a yearlong survey that the organic seal on some milk was not a guarantee that dairies had followed full organic practices., Julia Watson, August 9, 2006

Increased Patrols of Border Cited: Normally, these fields would be free of weeds and workers would move easily up and down the rows, harvesting organic vegetables and herbs meant for dinner tables around the country. But increased patrolling along the border with Mexico, and easier, higher-paying jobs in the city have made farm workers scarce., Associated Press, Juliana Barbassa, August 9, 2006

Cultivating Fundamental Values: Plymouth farmer promotes traditional standards of going organic - Twelve years ago, Frank Albani Jr. left a career building houses to become an organic farmer at Soule Homestead, an organic farm and agricultural education center in Middleboro. Now, as president of the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s Massachusetts chapter, the 53-year-old Plymouth resident is a key leader in the rapidly growing industry. The Patriot Ledger, South Shore Insider, Kaitlin Keane, August 9, 2006

Ethnic Produce Growing Concern: Ontario now imports crops that it could grow for a growing ethnic market, and Peter Mitchell, a University of Guelph researcher, has landed a $62,000 New Farmers in the Greenbelt grant to train new farmers, including immigrants, to fill this market. Guelph Tribune, Canada, Virginia McDonald, August 8, 2006

Getting the most out of low-cost systems: Five years ago Andrew Allan and his wife Emma were heavily involved with processing their own milk from 400 cows with up to 7000 doorstep deliveries. Conversion began in November 2005 and cattle sold in 2007 will be sold under the Waitrose organic scheme, yielding premiums of up to £2.80/kg, he hopes.  Farmers Weekly,, August 8, 2006

Pure Beginnings Launches Exclusive 100% Organic Cotton Baby Line:  Pure Beginnings brings the newest choice in natural living to parents, with a complete line of organic baby clothing, bedding, and personal care products. In addition to environmental harm from cotton farming, pesticide and chemically-treated fabrics block the natural balance of the skin by trapping heat and preventing it from “breathing,” (i.e. absorbing adequate moisture), and can cause rashes and eczema on sensitive skin. Natural Newswire, Los Angeles, August 8, 2006

The good life in Havana: Cuba's green revolution: Twenty years ago, following the collapse of the Soviet empire, Fidel Castro's small island faced a food crisis. Today, its network of small urban farmers is thriving, an organic success story that is feeding the nation. The Independent, Andrew Buncombe, August 8, 2006

Children of the revolution:  When Ben and Charlotte Hollins lost their grandfather last year, they faced a race against time to save his pioneering organic farm, Fordhall Farm on the outskirts of Market Drayton,  from the developers. Now, with the help of 7,000 investors, their buyout has left a whiff of revolution in the country air. The Observer Magazine, UK, Lucy Siegle, August 6, 2006

The garlicky aroma of success:  Greenville - Twenty years ago, Keith Stewart was doing the whole jacket-and-tie thing in Manhattan. Those in the business world might say Stewart "got in on the ground floor." Not only did he happen to find a tasty variety of garlic to draw in the masses, but also, he's now an established organic farmer at a time when the "whole foods" trend is sweeping the country. Times Herald-Record, New York, Brendan Scott, August 6, 2006

Aerial EEE: Spray raises safety fears: Organic farmers say they fear for the safety of their crops and animals as the state prepares to begin aerial spraying to combat mosquito-borne disease. State health authorities say the pesticide, Anvil, is environmentally safe and will be applied in low-volume spraying from two fixed-wing airplanes flying at 300 feet in the first aerial spraying conducted in 16 years. The Patriot Ledger, Elaine Allegrini, August 5, 2006

The future of farming: “The Future of Farming” is the theme of the Tilth Producers of Washington’s annual conference scheduled for November 10-12 in Vancouver, Washington.  A symposium on “Farming for Food Quality,” which will be presented by Washington State University on the first day of the conference, is designed to raise awareness of the agricultural factors that influence food quality, including crop genetics and production practices. Good Fruit Grower Magazine, August 3, 2006

Workers on organic farms are treated as poorly as their conventional counterparts: "There's a common conventional wisdom by a lot of consumers, especially at the higher-end stores, that just because it's organic the workers are treated better," said UFW spokesperson Mark Grossman. "And that's simply not true." Grist Magazine, Jason Mark, August 2, 2006

Island grown: You get what you pay for:  The farmers market is just one way MacWhorter fetes the island’s growing hunger for island-grown produce. While nearly all of Butler Green’s field-raised food stays on the island, MacWhorter channels his harvest into four markets, including direct sales through a farm share-buying system, local restaurants and Town & Country Market. Bainbridge Island Review, Tristan Baurick, August 2, 2006

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