I’m Linley Dixon, Senior Scientist with The Cornucopia Institute. I own a 5-acre farm in
Durango, Colorado with my husband and brother who both farm full time. In southwest
Colorado, there is a strong young farmer movement. We have a local chapter of the National
Young Farmers Coalition and Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. The farmers are marketing
and distributing together through a farmer-owned cooperative.
But organics has a problem. Some of our farmers and ranchers don’t want to get certified,
even though their practices are in line with the standards. They say organic has lost its
meaning. The standards don’t represent the way they farm.
The organic label currently provides little added value. The wholesale prices for organic
crops are so low that there is little market incentive for farmers to become certified.
Industrial hydroponic operations have flooded the organic market for our highest value
crops – tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, basil, and greens.
Real organic poultry producers have already left organic for pasture-based labels. Real
organic dairy farmers are failing as we speak because of the lack of enforcement of pasture
requirements and origin of livestock.
History has shown that during farm crises, industrial operations actually increase
production so they will control the market after the crisis. Aurora is building another
factory farm in Colorado and a processing facility in Missouri, while Horizon is lowering
prices and dropping contracts with family-scale dairies in several states.
Fraudulent organic grain imports are directly related to the quick rise of domestic organic
factory farms that are thriving on large amounts of cheap organic grain.
But, for the first time, there is a ray of hope. The Real Organic Project is a fervent effort to
keep soil- and pasture-centric farms part of the organic label before industrial operations
have squeezed them out.
The aim is to rebuild public trust in organic; to inspire new farmers and consumers into the
organic market; to bring transparency back to the organic label; to bring production
practices back into compliance with OFPA and fill gaps where the organic standards have
This label would not be necessary if farmers felt the current NOSB process of continuous
improvement was working, if the NOP assurance of a level playing field was enforced. There
is a deep feeling of frustration and earnestness to save the family farm that the organic label
brought back to life in the first place.
I see the Real Organic Project as an opportunity to tell our organic story again; to remind
consumers that organic was built by family farms and that they are still overseeing the
success of the label; to inspire the next generation of farmers and eaters to be part of
After all, the people leading the Real Organic Project are the same people who built the
organic movement the first time around. These are farmers that welcome unannounced
visits to their farm and offer full transparency in their practices. It’s time to insist on these
Real Organic ideals again – together.