In an effort to increase the number of organic farmers to meet growing consumer demand, the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) kicked off a new public education campaign, "Help Wanted: Organic Farmers," this weekend at its 16th annual Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference in La Crosse , Wisc., where a record 1,750 people attended.
Retail sales of organic foods have grown at 20% per year since 1990. Industry projections by the Nutrition Business Journal call for 2004-2008 annual growth to be 15.6% for organic dairy, 39% for organic beef, and 48% for organic poultry.
According to MOSES Director, Faye Jones, the purpose of the "Help Wanted: Organic Farmers" is to raise awareness in the farm community that there is a genuine consumer-driven need for more organic food production, especially dairy, beef, poultry and cash grain. Jones says, "Consumers have been driving retail sales of organic food up and up and upâ€¦vegetables, fruit, milk, cheese, chicken, beef, pork, you name it. Now is the time for the farm community to step up and meet this demand. We need to realize that there are some important economic opportunities here in the Midwest, particularly for organic livestock producers and for those that raise the certified organic grain that these animals eat."
At a campaign kick-off news conference Friday, Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, Rod Nilsestuen, notes that the Mississippi River Valley region has been at the center of the organic and sustainable agriculture community. He says, "It's clear that we need more people producing organically. What is hopeful is that you don't have to learn the lessons of organic farming on your own anymore. The infrastructure and network are out there to get you the resources you need."
Also speaking at the news conference was George Siemon, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Organic Valley Family of Farms, the nation's largest organic cooperative. Siemon noted the growing consumer demand for organic products and said, "The market is calling out to farmers, and this is a rare moment where farmers can be financially very well rewarded as well." The prices that organic farmers have received during the last decade have generally been 50-100% higher than their conventional counterparts.
For a free information and resource packet, visit www.mosesorganic.org or call MOSESâ€™ Spring Valley, Wisconsin office at 715-772-3153.