Organics

Burkey Farms in southeast Nebraska looked into the future a couple of years ago and didn’t like what it saw — a continuation of depressed prices for conventional corn and soybeans. So, the families who run the farm together started discussing how the operation would make money if they couldn’t earn more from their crops.  

Their conversation took a turn toward organics, a $40 billion industry and growing, especially in Iowa and Colorado.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Sales of organic food reportedly climbed to record highs in 2016, an indication organics are edging toward the mainstream.

 

In a new industry report, the Organic Trade Association says American consumers spent $43 billion on organic products in 2016, which accounts for more than 5 percent of total U.S. food sales, a high water mark for the organic industry.

 

file: Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Can food be organic even if it's not grown in soil?

Many hydroponic growers in the U.S. want access to the $40 billion organic market, but a board that advises the U.S. Agriculture Department on organic industry policy signaled Friday it would recommend excluding produce not in grown in soil from the federal organic program.

Currently, fruits and vegetables grown using hydroponics – an artificial system with added nutrients carried in water, but without soil – can be labeled as organic.

Jennifer C. / Flickr

 

Liv Martin/IPR

Four years ago, two very different entities in North Iowa began a transition on separate paths. Now, they’ve combined to provide both fresh produce and new opportunities for people with many types of disabilities.

69-year-old Dan Lauters stands on the edge of his sprawling one acre Hancock County garden and attempts to list all the vegetables it holds.

“A row of kale there, and then you see a row of carrots, and then the romaine lettuce, and then this is the kohlrabi, and here is your rainbow chard…” says Lauters.

courtesy photo

As a country music singer, Liz Carlisle, who grew up in Montana, says she was interested in the poetry and philosophy of farming and rural life.

"I hadn't been involved in sustainable agriculture at all," she says, "I was a country singer. I think I shared a lot of values, but I didn't really know the language of sustainable agriculture and I wasn't, quite frankly, paying enough attention to economics or to science."

Courtesy of Rapid Creek Ranch

There are more than 600 certified organic farms in Iowa, and many others using organic and sustainable practices. Doug Darrow produces beef and chicken near Oxford at Rapid Creek Ranch. He started to make the transition from conventional farming to more sustainable practices after a woman approached him at a farmer’s market.

I had a lady come up to me at a market and asked if we sold grass-fed beef, and I said no. She said that if we did, she’d buy all her beef from us. That really struck a chord,” he explains.

Harvest Public Media flie photo by Peggy Lowe

Have you noticed your grocery store's organic section starting to spill over? It's not your imagination. The organic sector is raking in the dough.

The country's certified organic farms sold $5.5 billion in organic products in 2014. That's a 72 percent increase since 2008, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2014 survey of organic agriculture shows. The goods that brought in the most cash were organic milk, eggs, chicken, lettuce and apples, according to the survey.

Photo by Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

Chert Hollow Farm sits nestled between rows of tall trees and a nearby stream in central Missouri. Eric and Joanna Reuter have been running the organic farm since 2006. That means they don't plant genetically modified crops and can only use a few approved kinds of chemicals and fertilizers.

"We've traditionally raised about an acre and a half of pretty intensively managed produce, so it's a very productive acre and a half," Eric Reuter said. "We're really into cropping things."

Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

When it comes to organic certification, there are strict guidelines for food producers to follow. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Specialty crop farmers were at the capitol today complaining of damage to their produce from pesticide drift.

Screenshot

There are lots of opinions about how to eat and grow healthy food. The new PBS show Food Forward takes a look at some of them. 

Wikimedia Commons

Demand for organic produce in Iowa is growing.

Clay Masters / IPR

Organic food is a hot market in the U.S. The Organic Trade Association says that sales over the last five years have grown 35 percent. But there’s a problem in the supply chain – not enough organic grain.

Many producers in the farm belt aren’t willing to take on organic production despite a hefty price premium. That has left organic food companies scrambling to find enough raw ingredients for the products that hit grocery store shelves. Just as corn and soybeans dominate conventional processed food and meat, these same grains are often key ingredients for organic foods.

Iowa Organic Conference

Organic practices in gardening and farming are getting to be more common every year in Iowa. Today on Talk of Iowa, it’s Horticulture Day. Organic specialist Kathleen Delate will be here to give us a preview of the 13th Annual Iowa Organic Conference. She and Richard Jauron will also answer your questions.

Turn Here Sweet Corn

Oct 21, 2013
Univeristy of Minnesota

Through high winds and hail, dry years and wet, and through the pressures of development and corporate interests Atina Diffley and her husband Martin ran one of the first certified organic produce farms in the Midwest.

Diffley has written about her farm and her life in the book, "Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works."

Trevor Manternach / Flickr

Host Ben Kieffer discusses this year's Farm Progress Show with Harvest Public Media reporter Bill Wheelhouse, Iowa State University Professor horticulturalist Kathleen Delate and organic farmer Grant Schultz.   Also, this month the last group of secret recordings Richard Nixon made while president were rele

Flickr / cwwycoff1

Women have worked in agriculture since agriculture began, but for many years they were limited to supporting roles. Talk of Iowa seeks out women's voices in agriculture, through history and today.  Jenny Barker-Devine, author of "On Behalf of the Family Farm: Iowa Farm Women's Activism since 1945" discusses how the roles of farm women changed during the 20th century.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Shoppers looking for organic food may have to look a bit harder this year.

Arthur Rothstein

Urban areas in the Midwest are often referred to as “food deserts”, lacking in affordable, local fresh greens and produce. Many people living in these areas are suffering from poor diet and subsequent disease. Ben Kieffer speaks with Will Allen, an urban farmer who is working to eliminate the fresh food shortage is these neighborhoods. Then Iowa State historian Pamela Riney-Kehrberg  discusses a time when a large portion of the country was considered a desert, the 1930s Dust Bowl.

Theresa Wysocki / Flickr

A lot of Iowa farmers use a two-year rotation of corn one year and soybeans the next. But what if a longer rotation could yield better crops and was good for the soil? Host Charity Nebbe talks with researchers from Iowa State University whose research found longer crop rotations improved the crops and reduced fertilizer runoff.

  

April Sorrow, UGA College of Agriculture / Flickr

The drought was hard on everyone this year and on today's Horticulture Day  Kathleen Delate, a horticulture professor at Iowa State University, talks about how organic crops fared. Then, she discusses the diversity of organic produce in the state and how producers are responding to a growing demand for locally grown food.

Turn Here Sweet Corn book cover
Atina Diffley Official Website

Through high winds and hail, dry years and wet, and through the pressures of development and corporate interests Atina Diffley and her husband Martin ran one of the first certified organic produce farms in the Midwest.

Diffley has written about her farm and her life in the new book, Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works.