Organic Vegetable Production: Farm Case Studies, Systems Descriptions, and Farmer Interviews

Organic Agriculture July 21, 2014|Print

eOrganic authors:

Alex Stone, Oregon State University

John McQueen, Oregon State University

Introduction

Experienced organic farmers are experts - they know how to manage soils and soil fertility as well as beneficial insects and pests, produce crops, and manage a business. They are also systems thinkers - they know how to put it all together into cropping systems and farm enterprises. How can all of us (farmers, agricultural professionals, educators, and researchers) learn from experienced farmers? Case studies, systems descriptions, and farmer interviews aim to capture and extend farmer expertise.

Regions

West

  • Cultural practices and sample costs for organic vegetable production on the central coast of California. Undated. K. Klonsky, L. Tourte, D. Chaney, P. Livingston, and R. Smith. University of California Vegetable Research and Information Center. Davis, CA. Available online at: http://vric.ucdavis.edu/pdf/Organic/organic_culturalpracticesandsamplecostsfororgprodcosts.pdf (verified 4 June 2012).

    "Comprehensive overview of commercial organic vegetable production on the Central Coast, with crop-specific enterprise budgets. Organic vegetable farms on the Central Coast region of California are generally intensive operations. That is, two and sometimes three crops may be harvested off the same acreage each year. Many approaches exist for growing and marketing organic vegetables. This publication describes the range of soil management practices, pest management, crop rotations, cover crops, and harvest and packing methods currently used by organic growers on the Central Coast of California. Marketing options and state and federal regulations governing organic commodities are also discussed. A general sequence of operations, equipment requirements, resource use, costs, yield and return ranges are presented for thirteen vegetable crops and two cover crops. The vegetables included are cabbage, cauliflower, cucumbers, garlic, lettuce (leaf and romaine), onions (red and yellow), snap peas, snow peas, bell peppers (green and red), sweet corn, and winter squash (large and small varieties). Barley and vetch are the two cover crops detailed."
  • Northwest Direct farmer case studies [Online]. Undated. Rural Roots and the University of Idaho. Available at: http://www.ruralroots.org/programs/nwdirect/casestudies/ (verified 4 March 2010).

  • Closing the loop. Full Circle Farm [Online]. 2004. I. Dankmeyer. Rodale Institute. Kutztown, PA. Available at: http://newfarm.rodaleinstitute.org/features/0904/fullcircle/index.shtml (verified 4 March 2010).

    "It started ten years ago with a rototiller and an idea. Today, Full Circle Farm grows organic produce for 500 CSA members, 50 restaurants, 15 grocery stores, 12 farmers' markets, and 4 wholesalers." Excerpted from the book Renewing the Countryside: Washington.
     
  • New life on the Big Island [Online]. P. Emerson. 2005. Rodale Institute. Kutztown, PA. Available at: http://newfarm.rodaleinstitute.org/features/2005/0605/laughingpig/index.... (verified 4 March 2010).

    Laughing Pig Farm, Hawaii. "In the wake of the Hawai'ian sugar industry's decline, small organic producers like Lou Russo and Bari Green emphasize diverse cropping systems, local markets and long-term sustainability."

  • Northern California’s Full Belly Farm redefines what it means to be a family farmer. L. Hamilton. 2003. Rodale Institute. Kutztown, PA.
    Available online at: http://newfarm.rodaleinstitute.org/features/1103/fullbelly.shtml (verified 4 March 2010).

    Full Belly Farm, California. "Despite its 35 full-time workers, 15 retail accounts, 15 wholesale accounts, 650 member CSA and three farmers’ markets almost year ‘round, Full Belly still has the heart and soul of a family farm."

  • Three farmers, many lives. L. Sayre. undated. Rodale Institute. Kutztown, PA.
    Available online at: http://newfarm.rodaleinstitute.org/features/2005/0505/alba/profiles.shtml (verified 4 March 2010).

    Farmers from the ALBA Program, California. "Graduates of the ALBA program, now independent farmers, say what they value most is growing food without chemicals, working with family members and being their own bosses."


  • Living mulch system. H. Atthowe. 2006. In Weed 'Em and Reap Part 2. Reduced tillage systems for vegetable cropping systems [DVD]. A. Stone (Producer). Oregon State University Department of Horticulture. Corvallis, OR. Available online at:
    Weed 'Em and Reap Part 2. Reduced Tillage Strategies for Vegetable Cropping Systems.

    Helen Atthowe's Fukuoka-inspired reduced tillage living mulch vegetable production system evolved from her diverse farming and research experiences and is grounded in the ecology of the Bitterroot Valley of Montana.

Northeast

  • Organic vegetable farms in New England: Three case studies. K. Stoner, S. Gilman, S. Vanek, B. Caldwell, C. Mohler, M. McGrath, D. Conner, A. Rangarajan. 2008. Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 1021.

    • Kestrel Farm. Tom Harlow, Westminster, VT.
    • Upper Forty Farm. Kathy, Ben, and Andy Caruso, Cromwell, CT.
    • New Leaf Farm. Dave and Christine Colson, Durham, ME.
       
  • Organic and sustainable in South Jersey. L. Sayre. Undated. Rodale Institute. Kutztown, PA.
    Available online at: http://newfarm.rodaleinstitute.org/features/0603/muth.shtml (verified 4 March 2010).

    Bob Muth, Muth Farm. New Jersey. "Sucessfully fighting high land values and NAFTA. Beginning in 1999, Bob Muth started transitioning acres to organic. He now has nine of his 80 acres certified organic . . . and is wondering if he should go all the way organic with his CSA, farm stand and wholesale operations."

  • From big city to small farm: Couple successfully follows their dream. M. DeVault. 2003. Rodale Institute. Kutztown, PA.
    Available online at: http://newfarm.rodaleinstitute.org/depts/beginning_farmers/0403/frankill... (verified 4 March 2010).

    "Jeffrey Frank and Kristin Illick started farming four years ago as novice apprentices. Now they supply a farmer’s market and 10 restaurants with greens, heirloom tomatoes, baby veggies and herbs."

Midwest

  • Angelic Organics manages the economics of a 1,000-Member CSA. D. Maulsby. 2003. Rodale Institute. Kutztown, PA.
    Available online at: http://newfarm.rodaleinstitute.org/depts/talking_shop/1203/biodynamic1.s... (verified 4 March 2010).

    "The owners of the Illinois-based CSA shared their mission statement, organizational chart and business plans with attendees at the...[2003] Biodynamic Farming Conference in Ames, Iowa."
     
  • Molly and Ted Bartlett, Silver Creek Farm. Hiram, Ohio. In The New American Farmer, 2nd Ed. V. Berton. 2005. Sustainable Agriculture Network (now SARE Outreach). Beltsville, MD. Available online at: http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/amp/images/naf2.pdf (verified 4 March 2010).

    "Bartlett and her husband, Ted, mulled over how to best market their small farm and decided to focus their efforts locally. Starting a community supported agriculture (CSA) operation seemed a great way to connect with their customers while bringing in a steady income. CSA involves consumers as shareholders in the farm in exchange for fresh produce every week during the season."

  • Richard DeWilde and Linda Halley, Harmony Valley Farm. Viroqua, Wisconsin. In The New American Farmer, 2nd Ed. V. Berton. 2005. Sustainable Agriculture Network (now SARE Outreach). Beltsville, MD. Available online at: http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/amp/images/naf2.pdf (verified 4 March 2010).

    "Richard DeWilde [Harmony Valley Farm] questioned whether to become a farmer at all, but once he decided that’s what he wanted to do, he never really questioned how he’d go about it. For him, it was organic production or nothing. Once he made that decision, DeWilde determined to grow crops organically for direct sale to individuals, although he wasn’t sure whether running a small farming enterprise would pay the bills. He spent a number of lean years and long, hard days finding the answer."

South

  • North Carolina organic vegetable production cost study. E.A. Estes, T. Kleese, and L. Lauffer. 2003. ARE Report No. 31. Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC and Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. Available online at: http://www.ncsu.edu/project/arepublication/AREno31.pdf (verified 4 March 2010).

    "During 2001, we asked 24 growers to maintain detailed production and marketing records for one entire crop season. The 24 cooperators grew 8 different organic vegetables so we had cost records for one crop from three growers. Before the study started, we hypothesized that only slight cost differences would exist across each commodity grower, that is, each grower would incur similar cultural and marketing costs but fixed and labor costs would vary considerably across growers. In fact there were significant differences in machinery, equipment, and labor but also in cultural and marketing expenditures among farmers who raised the same crop. It is clear that growers employed a variety of cultural methods to raise the crop a few cost similarities were observed for each commodity. A variety of cultural practices, equipment and machinery ownership, use of own and hired labor, and marketing techniques contributed to significant differences in per unit costs of production. Peppers, squash, and lettuce were the most expensive study crops to grow (dollar cost / 100 square feet) while sweet corn, tomatoes, and salad mix were the least expensive crops to raise (dollar cost / 100 square feet) based on cooperator records. Net returns per 100 square feet also varied considerably within and across commodities but overall tomatoes, lettuce, salad mix, and sweet corn were among the most profitable."

  • Organic horticulture and marketing videos [Online]. Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Virtual Farm Tours. Available for purchase at:http://www.ssawg.org/web-resources/ (verified 4 March 2010).

    • Video #1: Maple Springs Gardens. "This 18 minute video demonstrates the successful farming system Ken Dawson has developed in North Carolina. It provides a general overview of the farming system and highlights two key components: plasticulture and hired labor. This video has already won two prestigious national video awards. It won first place in the Media Communication Association International Golden Reel competition and, from over 10,000 entries, this video placed second in the Telly Awards."
    • Video #2: Au Naturel Farm. "This 18 minute video demonstrates the successful farming system Paul and Alison Wiediger have developed in Kentucky. It provides a general overview of the farming system and highlights two key components: high tunnel or hoophouse production and electronic communication to market their products."

 

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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