I saw a disturbing bit of news over the weekend. Organic dairy farms in Vermont had an average return of -2.7% last year. That means it cost them almost $1.03 for each dollar of sales.
Some of you know that I have looked for ways to get back into full time farming, and that I have considered the organic option.
There are several problems with organic farms in VT. First they are smaller and don’t have economy of scale, and when they sell milk, they have to compete with milk from organic factory farms. Today the biggest seller of organic milk in the country is also the biggest the seller of milk…..period. It is very expensive for an existing farmer to change over to an organic dairy. On day one you are saddled with organic costs, but you can’t sell your product as organic for up to several years. For farmers looking to make the change, they are saying, "Why make the investment?" when they see that their organic brothers are not making a living either.
We as the consuming public are faced with several issues. When we buy, do we just want to support the organic concept in general?? If so, it is a good thing that most supermarket organic food comes from big companies. When we buy we encourage big change in traditional factory farming. If we really just want to support small family farms, though, "organic" as sold by today’s supermarkets may not be the way to go.
What do you think?