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More farmers eye organic operations amid increased demand

ABERDEEN (AP) — Organic farming proponents say more and more farmers are looking to adjust their operations to meet the growing demand for organic products.

The Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service reports that the number of certified organic operations has increased over the last decade more than 250 percent in the U.S., according to the Aberdeen American News.

"It's getting bigger. People want to know where their food is coming from," said Eden McLeod, the executive director of the farmer-to-farmer network Foundation for Agricultural and Rural Resource Management and Sustainability, or FARRMS. "It's not going away, so why not get on board?"

McLeod spoke during a presentation at the Northern Plains Sustainable Ag Society Winter Conference in Aberdeen last month. She said statistics show that consumer demand for organic products hits double digit growth each year. That demand, she said, means a need for more production.

Based on feedback evaluations, several of the 550 conference attendees were looking to start transitioning their operations or were already in the process, said Susan Long, office manager at Northern Plains Sustainable Ag Society, or NPSAS.

It generally takes three years to transition commercial land to organic and one year to transition most livestock. Those timeframes can vary per National Organic Program regulations. And the countdown starts over if soil gets contaminated during those first years.

Record keeping is vital if farmers or ranchers are looking to make the transition, as is evaluating the potential market, time constraints and selecting a certification agency, McLeod said. Establishing strong relations with neighboring farmers is also key, especially if those farms practice conventional farming, she said.

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