Consumers today are more conscientious than ever about where their food is sourced and how it is grown. Since the passing of The Organic Food Production Act in 1990, the organic food industry in the U.S. has grown at a rate of 20-30% per year, making it the fastest growing sector in the food market. Growing awareness of the quality and nutrient value of the foods we are feeding our families has translated into 28.682 billion annual organic sales in 2010.
Whenever demand increases, supply must maintain a corresponding growth. In 2008, certified organic acreage in the U.S. reached more than 4.8 million acres, according to the USDA. In Washington State alone, organic acreage has increased 8-fold since 1993, supporting thousands of businesses and positively impacting rural communities.
A key player in the development of Washington’s organic agriculture has been Washington State University (WSU). Starting with organic research in the 1970’s, WSU has been an active participant in the pursuit of information, tools and organic solutions to agricultural production and sustainability challenges. Their commitment has been demonstrated in their Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, as well as the creation of the first four-year organic agriculture major in the country.
Today, they have taken their leadership in organic education and agriculture even further through the establishment of their Organic Farm in Pullman, WA in 2003. In 2012, WSU received a $9.5 million gift from the founder of Pacific Natural Foods, Chuck Eggert, to build another 30-acre organic, student-based farm project, called The Eggert Family Organic Farm. Both projects are designed to pass onto the next generation the skills necessary to grow organic fruits and vegetables in a sustainable manner, through organic techniques, computer science and architectural planning.
As WSU looks to the future of America’s food systems and farming practices, they believe that research and education are vital to raising up a strong generation of young farmers. A research leader of WSU’s Biologically Intensive Agriculture and Organic Farming program, Lynne Carpenter-Boggs focuses her interdisciplinary program on identifying and applying strengths across disciplines to study and document the effectiveness of BIOAg farming techniques.
“Biologically intensive,” Carpenter-Boggs says, “means farming practices and systems that rely on biological processes that are renewable, non-polluting and mutually beneficial to both farmers and society.”
WSU and Carpenter-Boggs value organic education, not just through the university, but also in the community for farmers, gardeners and the next generation of organic producers. On Saturday, January 12, 2pm, Carpenter-Boggs will be offering a free community lecture at Pilgrim’s Market, 1316 N 4th St in Coeur d’Alene, on creating an economically viable, environmentally sound and socially responsible approach to agriculture.
As we look to the future of healthy food for our children, it is important to know how research and education will impact our food systems. It is exciting and comforting to know that WSU is providing a model for local and national growers and laying a foundation in farming, sustainability and organic integration for generations to come.
Submitted by KEA Member: Michal Bennett