Q: How can we encourage more farmers to transition to organic methods?
A: Farmers come to organic for different reasons: health, environment, spiritual stewardship of the land and the economics. We try to address multiple reasons why someone might convert. I’ve known guys that have come into it for money, and quickly fallen in love with our stewardship of the land and the organic community.
Right now our biggest barrier is government policy and programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture that don’t offer incentives to farmers for employing organic farming practices. [We tell farmers about the] Conservation Stewardship Program, which rewards farmers who use sustainable practices. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program helps farmers financially during the first three years when they’re converting their farms.
Q: What is the biggest obstacle as far as organic education?
A: The industry has not done well with supporting nonprofits that provide training and resources to teach farmers how to successfully grow organic. Increasingly, consumers understand that we’re not going to have human health without soil health. A concern I have is that there’s not going to be enough farmers to meet that demand.
Q: What can natural food retailers do to help support your mission?
A: Let people know that every day when they sit down to dinner, they’re supporting a farmer. Remind customers to spend food dollars in a way that makes a difference in a farmer’s life, in water quality, in soil life. A lot of people just say it costs more but never think why.