Farmer Perspective: Three Reasons to Consider Diversification with Organic Crops
As the old saying goes, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” It rings true for many farmers, who have found diversification to be key in helping to secure the financial health of their farming operations. If you’re considering diversification as a way to gain more profit potential for your farm, growing organic crops might be a good option for you.
Three years ago, Brian Irlbeck—a farmer in Manning, Iowa—was not pleased with the profits from his conventional acres. Searching for ways to boost his bottom line, Irlbeck looked to organics.
Here are three reasons to consider adding organic crops to your operation. Brian weighs in on how they have impacted his farm.
1. Opportunity for increased profit potential per acre.
Whether it’s because of Mother Nature or poor market prices, you have good years and bad years in farming.
“Having the ability to work with our existing acres and secure more profits has been a huge benefit of organic crops,” says Irlbeck. “You can only have so many bad years, before you have to do something different to be profitable. We’re selling organic crops for considerably more than our conventional. And, our yields are starting to be comparable.”
2. Organic farming methods can help preserve soil.
“We’re going back to farming like we did several years ago,” says Irlbeck. “We’re tilling the organic ground and using cover crops to help with weed issues, but we’re also using fewer chemicals.”
Organic farming practices may require a bit more work upfront to keep weeds at bay, but many organic methods help conserve soil. Water erosion can occur when rain hits bare soil, but organic management practices, such as cover crops and mulches, help to protect soil from heavy rain, limiting erosion concerns on tilled ground. Healthy soil will, of course, produce more resilient, thriving crops, but can also help to nurture more sustainable land in the long term.
3. The market outlook for organic crops is exciting.
The demand for organic products continues to rise. In 2016, organic sales in the United States totaled approximately $47 billion, reflecting increased sales of 8.5 percent (or $3.3 billion) from the previous year. Since 2000, it’s an increase of 350 percent.1
“Organic is a growing market,” says Irlbeck. “As farmers, we have to make sure we’re growing what our customers are looking for, and the crops we can get paid to produce.”
Today, the U.S. is importing organic crops to keep up with the domestic demand, which provides an excellent opportunity for U.S. farmers to diversify and gain additional income from new, growing markets.
Irlbeck’s advice for farmers considering organics: “Start with one decent field, don’t start with your worst. In a few years, you’ll likely be very happy with the organic acres and the profits.”
To learn more about transitioning acres from conventional production to organic, read Seven Common Questions About Organic Transition, where we tackle this topic with J.P. Rhea of AgriSecure.
1. Organic Trade Association press release. Robust Organic Sector Stays on Upward Climb. May 2017. https://www.ota.com/news/press-releases/19681