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February 14, 2005

Organic Livestock and Grains in the Virginia Piedmont

Virginia Organic Producers and Consumers Association

This past Friday I paid a visit to the Virginia piedmont, just over the Blue Ridge from the Shenandoah Valley, where I was raised. I was headed to Ayrshire Farm, where Sandy Lerner has done a wonderful job of restoring a classic Piedmont farm to its glory. It is, as the website notes "a working farm that has met the 21st century with one foot firmly planted in the 19th."

The occasion was a conference for Piedmont farmers who are considering an entry into the organic meat market. As many of you certainly know, organic meat is the fastest growing sector of the organic market (79% a year), which is the fastest growing section of American agriculture (20% a year). This has had the effect (fortunate from the perspective of grain farmers and unfortunate as far as prospective organic meat producers are concerned) of raising organic grain prices to record levels. To get a sense of just how high prices are -- if you can find any organic grain at all to buy -- then check out the New Farm Organic Price Index and look at what organic #2 Yellow Corn is bringing in your area! But there is a solution...

...which is to grow your own organic grain. And that is just what people at the Virginia Organic Producers and Consumers Association (VOPACA) meeting were considering. It was an eminently practical meeting, in that the main presentations included a pair (Ellen Holton and Meghan Kuhn) from one of the oldest organic certification agencies, Quality Assurance International (QAI) and one of Virginia's best known independent organic inspectors, Catherine Cash. In one afternoon the assembled forty or so farmers got a complete rundown on the size of the market and exactly what they'd need to do -- in a regulatory sense -- to take advantage of it.

Virginia is fortunate to have two slaughter facilities that can process organic meats, so the main hitch at this point (other than the farmer's decision to give organic production a try) is feed cost, and the fact that prices are high does not affect production cost for the individual farmer. Modeling those costs is exactly what FarmSelect is all about, so I was thrilled to be there, and to be given 2-3 minutes to describe what it can do to help production farmers understand the differences between conventional and organic production budgets.

Now if we can just get our online course whipped into shape by this fall, so all those newly psyched up producers can while away a few winter evenings learning about the operational differences...I'll feel like all these hours staring into a computer screen -- instead of being out in the field -- will have been worth it!

Posted by shepherd.ogden at February 14, 2005 01:50 PM


The Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia is currently planning a heritage breeds livestock show and sale happening in August 2006. If you are interested in showcasing your heirloom or heritage breed animal or promoting your particular folk-art skill please contact me at; [darin.buse@fcmv.virginia.gov] or call (540) 332-7850 ext 154. Hope to here from you soon

Posted by: Darin M. Buse' at August 29, 2005 09:28 AM

You are absolutely right.

Posted by: Piedmont real estate at August 28, 2005 01:35 PM