Organic farming gains ground with consumers, California growers

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Organic farming continues to rise as consumer demand grows.

The Kern County Farm Bureau says the number of local farmers markets has increased significantly over the last several years.

Many who buy their produce from farmers markets look for locally grown fresh organic produce.

"In 2002 there were only two farmers markets with 18 growers, but as of 2012, there are now 75 growers and more than 15 farmers markets in town," said Ben McFarland, Kern County Farm Bureau.

READ | List of Farmers Markets in Kern County: http://bit.ly/1ib6O76

That increase is on par with the rest of the nation. According to the USDA, sales of certified organically grown produce continues to rise and as of 2008 and California has led the way in sales.

While there were organic farms or ranches in all 50 states, nearly 20 percent of the operations were in California. California also led the nation in organic sales, with $1.15 billion – or 36 percent of all U.S. sales.

Kern County is one of the world's largest producers a farm products. Many local farmers have recognized the demand of organically grown produce and have grown crops to meet the need.

Lehr Brothers Inc has been farming in Kern County for 75 years and started a branch of certified organic farming in 1997 with 20 acres dedicated to organic. Now they have over a thousand acres dedicated to certified organic grown produce.

"The demand for organic products has grown and every year it grows a little more. So growers like myself we're here to feed that demand," said Peter Belluomini, VP farming operations, Lehr Brothers.

The Farm Bureau says there are two types of organic farmers, one of which is a smaller farmer who grows organic strictly for health and environmental impacts. The second is the larger farmer who started growing organic produce for economic reasons as well as health and environmental impacts.

"Once people decided they wanted to know what's in there food, how its been grown, there became this market for it. And growers, businessmen business women see that get certified to grow organic. A venture that has been very successful for the growers in Kern County," said McFarland.

According to the USDA, when it comes to organic field crops acreage, Wisconsin leads the nation with more than 110,000 acres harvested in 2011. Wisconsin is followed by New York, with organic growers harvesting more than 97,000 acres. California closely follows the Empire state growers with more than 91,000 acres of organic field crops harvested in 2011.

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