California organic farms bear fruit

UC DAVIS (US) — California is home to 19 percent of all organic farms in the U.S., more than any other state, and accounts for 36 percent of the nation’s overall organic sales.

The state produces 100 percent of the nation’s organic almonds and dates and 99 percent of the nation’s organic walnuts, lemons, figs, and artichokes, according to an examination of data from the 2008 Organic Production Survey, the first nationwide survey of organic agriculture in the country.

California is also the top producer of organic livestock and livestock products, with broiler chickens and milk from cows the most important livestock commodities.

“About one-third of the farms classified themselves as mixed operations with both organic and conventional production,” says Karen Klonsky, an economist at the University of California, Davis who conducted the survey.

“This implies that the organic market is an important opportunity for diversification for many conventional farms.”

The vast majority of respondents say they plan to maintain or expand their organic production, indicating that the agricultural subset remains financially healthy, despite the nation’s economic downturn.

There was no indication, however, that many producers who had both organic and conventional operations had plans to become entirely organic, Klonsky says.

“This is an indication that organic continues to be a niche market, albeit a profitable one.”

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