* Consumer appetite for organic foods reached $13.4bn in the US last year – so why is only 1% of the country’s cropland dedicated to organic farming?
Marc Garibaldi, a farmer in California’s Central Valley, no longer uses conventional pesticides and fertilizers because he doesn’t want to work with toxic chemicals at his 40-acre cherry orchard. His farm was officially certified as organic a few weeks ago, but the path to securing that designation was long and costly: he spent three years working to demonstrate the use of eco-friendly pest and soil management practices and paid between 10%-20% in higher labor cost.
Yet he was unable to convince processors that pack and ship his harvest to pay more for his fruit – which he was already cultivating by using the organic standards set by the federal government – during that period.
“Your farm is your financial life, and when you decide you’re going to change the way you’re doing your business, you’re kind of putting it at risk,” Garibaldi said of the challenge of making the transition to organic. “The grocery stores don’t give a crap whether you’re in the transition to being organic. All they care about is are you certified or not.”