It has happened, very quietly, all over California, where more than one-quarter of the state’s land mass is devoted to farming. More and more farmers are making the radical, often painful and difficult, transition from conventional agriculture to organic methods of raising fruit, vegetables, and even fish, meat, and dairy products. After more than a-half-century of waging an all-out chemical warfare on nature, using toxic chemicals to kill aphids, redden apples, and destroy weeds. California farmers have finally decided that there is a better way. The total number of farms using fertilizer, manure, or chemicals decreased 16.3 percent between 2007 and 2012. And that is just the beginning for California where over 3,008 organic farms sell organic products worth over $1.35 billion.
Roughly half are under 5 acres and only about 8 percent farm more than 100 acres. The largest 5 percent of farms managed two-thirds of the acreage. Since 2008 organic sales surged by 82 percent nationally. About ten percent of organic farms provide 75 percent of total national organic sales. California produces more than 90 percent of all U.S. organic sales in 14 different commodities: 99 percent of organic walnuts, lemons, figs and artichokes; and all of the organic almonds and dates. The largest organic crops based upon sales revenue are grapes and oranges, strawberries and raspberries, rice and potatoes, and almonds and walnuts. The men and women who pioneered organic farming is beginning to retire. Will their legacy last? Many have passed their farms to their children. But not all sons and daughters of organic farmers are interested. It’s hard work.