“Another thing that we grow personally is heirloom tomatoes, 10lb box, conventionally you get $13-$15/box and organically, you get $26-$32/box.” Logan Hobbs.

Hello Farmers! Are you currently growing produce for Wholesale markets? Or, should I ask, are you interested in growing organic produce for Wholesale markets?

This year Appalachian Harvest, a rural food hub of Appalachian Sustainable Development in Duffield Virginia, alongside the USDA, has created an Organic Growers Group. An Organic Growers Group is perfect for those looking to ease themselves into an Organic Certification.

An application to join the group can be found here. Don’t let the application discourage you though. These blog posts, as well as our online video series, will hopefully help you through your year in the Organic Growers Group. You will also have the help of other growers in the group, as well as the experienced staff at Appalachian Harvest. These are just a few of the benefits of joining the organic growers group.

If you’re already growing produce for Wholesale Markets and are using GAP compliant processes, you already meet half of the requirements necessary to get certified. GAP stands for Good Agriculture Practices. If GAP compliant, the USDA verifies that fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, handled and stored as safely as possible. In the near future, all producers selling to Wholesale Markets will need to be GAP compliant. Appalachian Harvest has classes and on the field training to help growers pass their inspection in order to get certified.

Now, getting Organically certified on an individual level may not be that appealing due to the cost but with a group, you will benefit from a reduced inspection and seed cost, as well as equipment sharing. If you have an acre or two that has been free of conventional inputs for at least three years, think about joining the group, just to grow one or two types of produce to test its profitability. Several large-scale conventional growers have joined the group this year for that exact reason. If profitable, you can slowly transition your operation over.

Once certified, you’ll be able to earn between 22 – 35% more on your produce. That’s according to research complied from the National Academy of Sciences. In our corresponding video, we join Logan Hobbs from Robbins Family Farm to discuss some of the price differences between conventional and organic produce. Logan gave me the average amount that was given back to the farmer last year in the organic growers group. For zucchini, she noted that for a 20lb box, the farmer would get between $8-$12/box for conventional and $26-$30/box for organic. The $12/box for conventional zucchini only lasted about two weeks and then the market price came back down to its ten dollar average. The same can be said about organic but with an average price that is $14 more than its conventional counterpart.

Towards the end of the episode, I asked Richard Moyer in Russell Country Virginia, what attracted him to become a certified organic grower? His initial response was money. Richard goes on to explain that it is also a form of risk management. They’re diversifying what they grow and are filling a high demand for organic seed production. Not every grower is in a position to grow organically for wholesale markets but if you have a few acres that you aren’t sure what to do with and live in Southwest Virginia or Northeast Tennessee, give us a call at 276.431.3485 or visit asdevelop.org/ah. We can discuss your options, provide guidance and even come out to your farm for an on the field consultation.

Derrick Von Kundra