This past Sunday’s Parade Magazine included a short column called “The Problem With Organic Food.” The premise of the article is that the US doesn’t raise enough organic food to meet demand of the rapidly growing organic food market. To meet consumer demand, many organic food companies must source raw products from outside the U.S. While this is true, the article got under my skin because it talked about a problem without defining it, and it included no suggestion of a solution whatsoever. At Farm Aid, we never just talk about a problem…it’s always “OK, here’s the problem; now what are we going to do about it?”
To its credit, the column in Parade raises a critical question: Given an abundance of fertile land and the best food producers in the world, why can’t we produce enough organic food in the United States to meet consumer demand? The answer leads to the solution: There simply aren’t enough US organic farmers to supply the demand. The solution? We need to get more organic farmers up and running in the U.S. We can do this by helping current conventional farmers transition to organic methods and we can put new farmers on the land.
The good news is that this work is being done all over the United States by dozens of organizations funded by Farm Aid. And at Farm Aid, we are building our own capacity to reach out to and connect many more family farmers to the resources and support they need to take advantage of this growing domestic market.
It’s shameful that we have to import organic dairy products from New Zealand, for instance, to meet US demand. Shipping food products that could be sourced domestically halfway around the world, with all the attendant environmental impacts, makes no sense.
Farm Aid’s vision is to put many more farmers on the land to grow the food we need and desire. While it may seem like a simple action, supporting local organic producers, and encouraging retailers and processors to do the same, is a practical way each of us can help build the supply of domestically-grown organic food.