Daily News Archive
From January 29, 2002
Farmers Living the Organic Life
The Department of Agriculture's organic food certification program in Idaho has grown tenfold since 1990, when there were only 11 farmers signed up. Today there are 123. Whether it is the lure of the better payoff for organic farmers or the need to feed people with healthy food, the lure is so strong that, according to the US Department of Agriculture, Idaho is now one of the top five states in the nation for organic acreage.
Mary Jane Butters, a former wilderness ranger with the US Forest service and Utah native, has spent the last decade building her organic farm and food company in Idaho. She has gone from selling a few pounds of falafel out of her kitchen in 1990 to selling nearly $400,000 worth of organic products today, including salsas, soups, breads, salads and a line of backpacking foods labeled and distributed by REI.
Organic foods, once viewed as food reserved for socially and environmentally conscious consumers, are finding their way into mainstream grocery stores. In 2000, organic food sales totaled $7.8 billion, helping organic farmers gain a foothold in a growing niche market. Turning today's consumers on to organic food has not been an easy task since organic foods do tend to be more expensive.
Julie Pipal, spokeswoman for the Idaho Department of Agriculture, said that they typically receive several phone calls a week from farmers wanting to switch to organic farming methods and become state certified.
Mary Jane Butters hopes that one day organic food will dominate retail shelves. "I want to take back our language. I don't want to have to call it an organic carrot. I want to call it a carrot, and let them call it a chemical carrot."
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