Organic ag, once considered outland agriculture in a world dominated by conventional commercial farms, now stands on its own as an industry, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
Organic foods are a mainstream consumer item that continues to rise in popularity, at least in Oregon, where Gov. John Kitzhaber proclaimed Sept. 15-21 as Organically Grown in Oregon week.
"Organic agriculture is right at home in Oregon," notes ODA Director Katy Coba. "The same great growing conditions and wonderful diversity of products that serves all of Oregon agriculture benefit our organic producers as well."
The governor's proclamation supports the idea that organic ag is doing well, noting that Oregon ranks fifth in the nation in the number of organic farms functioning. The proclamation says that Oregon passed the nation's premier organic ag legislation in 1973, and revised the Oregon Organic Foods Law in 1989, which served as the model for the current national organic standards.
"Organic agriculture gives Oregon consumers a choice in the bounty of products they enjoy," says ODA Marketing Director Gary Roth. "What I personally celebrate during this special week is the availability of organic products that just wasn't there 20 years ago. We grow so many different crops in Oregon, and we have so many different organic crops to offer as well."
According to a 2011 National Agricultural Statistics Service certified organic production survey, there were 353 organic farms in Oregon planting crops on more than 132,500 acres.
Value of the industry in the survey was placed at $233 million for Oregon organic crops.
"For many years, consumers couldn't find organic products readily available in mainstream markets," notes Laura Barton, ODA trade manager. "You might have found them at a health food store or a specialized market niche.
"Now you will find that almost every single mainstream grocery store will have organic products either integrated with other foods or in a special section for organics."