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Wisconsin Leads the Nation in Organic Farming

Wisconsin is a national leader in production of organic vegetables, and the state's heritage of family-owned farms fits perfectly with the growth of organic ag. (UW Extension)
Wisconsin is a national leader in production of organic vegetables, and the state's heritage of family-owned farms fits perfectly with the growth of organic ag. (UW Extension)
June 20, 2016

SPRING VALLEY, Wis. - In addition to leading the nation in the number of organic dairy and beef farms, Wisconsin is second in total number of organic farms, and ranks first in number of farms raising organic hogs, pigs, layer chickens, and turkeys.

The Badger state is also first in organic corn, oats, and several other crops, and third in number of organic vegetable and melon farms.

Harriet Behar, senior organic specialist of Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service in Spring Valley, says organic is well-suited to Wisconsin because of the state's tradition of family-owned farms.

"They have livestock, they grow the feed, they take care of the young stock, they take care of the older stock," she says. "And that's the perfect type of organic farm, where you have someone who is integrally involved in all aspects of the farm."

Behar also credits Wisconsin's long-standing tradition of cooperatives as being part of the reason organic agriculture is flourishing in the state.

She also points out that Organic Valley, the largest organic co-op in the world, began and is still headquartered in the tiny village of La Farge, just outside La Crosse.

According to Behar, the future is bright for the continued growth of organic farming in Wisconsin, partly because consumer demand is up. She says people want to know where their food comes from.

"Consumers understand that protection of their own health, as well as the health of the environment, is only good for themselves and for future generations - their children, their grandchildren," she says. "And as organic becomes more widespread, the prices are coming down."

Behar says only California has more farms than Wisconsin transitioning to organic, in part because of the strength of the local food movement.

"The local food movement has also highlighted knowing your farmer, knowing what they do, how they raised the food, and any kind of awareness that we have in the consumer world of food production and agriculture only works to favor organic," Behar says.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI