In 2017 Americans spent nearly $50 Billion on organic food, with organic food sales exceeding 5% of total retail sales. With average annual growth rates in the double digits, the organic industry isn’t going anywhere.
The number of certified organic farms and businesses grew 13% last year, and study after study shows that organic farms are more profitable than the average farm, by 35% or more. Lower input costs and prices two- to three-times higher than conventional make organic an opportunity worth exploring.
As promising as it all sounds, going organic can be a long journey. Transitioning successfully takes careful planning, a good team, and the willingness to learn a new system. We see organic production as a diversification strategy and a long-term investment. What starts as a smart business decision can become the key to passing your farm onto the next generation, to ensuring the safety and health of your family and farm labor, and to building resilience into your whole farming system, from your soil to your bottom line.
We’re committed to getting beyond the tired conventional vs. organic debate, and instead are having practical conversations about what’s best for your business, your family, and your land. We’ll meet you where you are. All are welcome.
If a farmer is interested in exploring organic, the path forward is often far from obvious. The list of questions is long, and will get longer. How do you control weeds and pests? What fertilizers can you use and what rotations make sense? Where do you buy organic inputs and how do you apply them? What pieces of equipment will you need to buy? Most agronomists don’t know anything about organics - who can you ask for advice? And once you grow a crop, there’s the marketing question. Is there a market? Where do you market your crops if the market exists? What can you expect in terms of price?
Going organic isn’t easy. Bridging the 36-month organic transition, when you’re farming organically but getting conventional prices can be a financial strain. There’s also the paperwork associated with certification that can be hard to navigate. Perhaps one of the hardest parts of this journey is walking into the local coffee shop and getting the cold shoulder for doing something different.
Of course, no two farms or farmers are the same – some farmers may only face one of these challenges, while others face them all. The FPP was designed with and for farmers to address each challenge and answer every question throughout the transition. We customize the program for each farmer.
Marketing: We can make this the easy part by providing long-term off-take agreements for all marketable Certified Transitional and Organic crops. This will facilitate conversations with lenders and give you the predictability and stability that is often lacking in this industry.
Economic Programs: Access to capital to help you finance new investments (equipment, storage, etc.) and to keep you financially whole during the transition process.
Software: Utilize a whole farm management tool that will help you manage certification records, track profitability, capture and analyze on-farm data, and share your story along the entire supply chain.
Agronomics: Get set up with an expert agronomy team in your region who can advise and guide you during the transition and beyond certification. We’ll cover the cost to create a three-year agronomic plan and get the relationship started.
Inputs and Equipment: Get easy access to regionally-proven, highest-value organic seed and fertilizer and application equipment. No salesmen, no snake oil - just what you need when you need it.
Certification: Direct support achieving and retaining organic certification is provided. We make the process as easy as possible by having an IOIA-trained organic inspector on staff and streamlining record-keeping through our software solutions.
Network: We believe in the power of a well-connected group of farmers to share valuable information, workshop solutions, and advocate for what will benefit the group as a whole. We work to facilitate networking and connection through online forums, in-person events, and using our facilities as meeting places.
Q: My neighbor tried organic farming and lost money.
Let’s be honest, there are barriers to organic farming, and every farming operation is different. Organics may not be right for everyone. We think of it as a long-term investment strategy for farmers looking for a fun challenge and a new market. It’s true that some farmers see decreased revenue through the transition, but the vast majority see significantly better profitability in the long term. It’s worth staying the course.
Q: Where does Pipeline Foods sell its grain?
When we buy your crop we sell into markets throughout the country. But what we get really excited about is opening up the supply chain so that you know exactly where your grain is going. Consumers want to know where their food comes from. We think it’s time for farmers to know where their food is going. There’s great pride in growing something consumers want to buy and knowing that you’re genuinely appreciated as a farmer.
Q. I’m interested in partnering with Pipeline to transition acres, what’s my first step?
The transition from conventional to organic will look different for everyone. Pipeline Foods partners closely with our farmers and suppliers to provide certification support, an initial agronomist consultation, software solutions, long-term contracts, financial support tools, and a solid network of like-minded farmers. But it all starts with a call or email – reach out and let us know who you are and how we can help.
Q: How is this preparing my farm for the future?
We believe that mature organic farms can feed the world. Transitioning to organic production can deliver comparable average yields, reduced pesticide residue, better soil health and increased farm profitability. We feel that diversifying your production system and your revenue streams can set your farming operation on a path towards long-term viability and profitability. It can also provide real opportunities for the next generations to return and prosper within the operation.
Q: How much does it cost to participate in the Farm Profit Program?
There are no program fees for the Farm Profit Program – it is a benefit we offer to all farmers who partner with Pipeline Foods as suppliers with long-term offtake agreements. We understand the supply chain starts at the farm level which is why the farmer comes first.
Q: What sort of profit margin can I expect during/after making the transition?
It’s different for every operation, region, and market, and the answer largely depends on you. Our job is to help you make the choices and changes that will maximize your profit while investing in the productivity and health of your land. Generally, farmers experience decreased productivity through the transition, which can be a challenge economically. We’ll do everything we can to help you through this time and find markets for your transitional crops. Once certified, prices for organic crops have been two- to three-times what conventional prices are and most farmers find that they at least double their returns per acre.