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Organic Acreage Continues to Grow Across the West

Organic agriculture continues on its upward climb in Washington state, according to a recently released annual report from Washington State University Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Cookson Beecher

 

Capital Press

Organic agriculture continues on its upward climb in Washington state, according to a recently released annual report from Washington State University Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The 2008 profile estimates a total of 96,139 acres of certified organic land statewide, up 18 percent from 81,472 acres in 2007. The amount of certified acreage in the state has increased 183 percent since 2003.

Gross farmgate sales from organic production increased by 48 percent - from $144 million in 2006 to more than $213 million in 2007.

The growth parallels trends elsewhere in the West, where the number of organic farms continues to increase at a double-digit pace.

In January, California Certified Organic Farmers, which certifies farmers, processors, handlers, retailers and private labelers in 35 states and four countries, reported that it had surpassed the 2,000 mark, with 199 new operations certified in 2008 - an 11 percent annual growth rate for the organization.

Last year, the number of operations it certified climbed from 1,808 in 2007 to 2,007 in 2008.

It also saw a a 14.3 percent increase in certified organic acreage, up from 488,340 acres in 2007 to 558,137 acres in 2008.

In addition to gains in organic vegetable and fruit acreage, especially berries, gains were also seen in organic wine and tea production.

Anne Schwartz, an organic grower in Skagit County, Wash., and immediate past president of Tilth Producers of Washington, said the growth in the number of organic farms reveals that people "really are interested in paying attention to what they eat."

Looking to the future, Schwartz said the report shows that there are opportunities in organic agriculture for farms of all sizes and that people will support agricultural practices that are environmentally sound.

David Granatstein, sustainable agriculture specialist for the WSU center, and research assistant Elizabeth Kirby compiled and analyzed data from four organizations that certify organic farmland within the state, among them the the Washington State Department of Agriculture Organic Food Program and Oregon Tilth Certified Organic.

According to their research, a total of 689 organic crop and livestock farms and 53 transitional farms in the state were certified in 2008.

While much of the demand for organic food produced in Washington state comes from urban consumers on the west side of the state, 80 percent of organic sales originated from Eastern Washington farms. Altogether, those farms currently account for 69 percent of the state's total organic acreage.

Seventy percent of the state's organic acreage is planted in three crop categories: tree fruit, vegetables, and forage crops for livestock.

Download the full report on Washington Organic Acreage 2008 (pdf)


Staff writer Cookson Beecher is based in Sedro-Woolley, Wash. E-mail: cbeecher@capitalpress.com.
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