Mar 5, 2020
Editor’s letter: Planting Words
Stephen Kloosterman

mug shotOrganic Grower’s first edition is a planting issue, and that seems appropriate.

The words on those pages and this website are the seeds of what we hope will grow to be a communication platform for organic growers and the researchers, advocates and vendors who work with them.

Planting takes a certain amount of optimism. “The farmer has to be an optimist or he wouldn’t still be a farmer,” cowboy humorist Will Rodgers once said. More than 40 years ago, organic growers who possessed a certain amount of optimism started meeting in small groups. Check out the memories of John and Joan Donaldson. Young growers today are also very energetic and excited – read about Michigan’s Brian Bates.

Now that optimism has blossomed. The Organic Trade Association has estimated that certified organic food sales reached $47.9 billion in 2018, an increase of 5.9% over 2017. More than $7.6 billion in certified organic commodities in 2016 were sold by U.S. farmers and ranchers, up 23% from $6.2 billion from 2015. Recently, Organic Produce Network and Category Partners estimated that sales of organic fruits and vegetables grew by slightly more than 5% in 2019, a faster rate than conventionally grown produce.

Our sister magazines, Fruit Growers News and Vegetable Growers News, have been in a good spot to notice this growth. Many of the growers we’ve profiled have told us they’re dipping their toes in organics as a way to diversify their investments in their farms’ futures. Florida Farmer of the Year Chuck Obern told us organic growing “makes you be a better farmer,” because it requires you to be proactive, anticipate pests and disease before they occur and deal with them with a smaller toolbox of products. A survey of growers who read our magazines showed that 61% hoped to expand their organic production in the future.

All of these statistics are reasons why we decided to emulate growers’ optimism, and plant a new magazine.

“We’re proud to fill a void in the agriculture industry by offering a new resource that will benefit organic growers nationwide,” said Matt McCallum, publisher of Organic Grower and CEO of Great American Media Services.

McCallum is a grower himself who grew up tending apple trees in Michigan. My fellow editors and I cherish the limited ways we’ve been involved in growing over the years. For instance, I worked on a dairy farm for one summer as a college student; today, I have a garden. Some of us can point to relatives who worked in agriculture just a generation or two ago. Produce from the local grocery store is often passed around and discussed among the editors at lunchtime. As a company, we’re passionate about agriculture. We respect and honor the commitment it takes to be an organic grower.

Are we professional growers? No, but we are professional listeners. We have to say thank you to the Extension agents, growers and professionals at

industry associations who let us pick their brains over the last few months. They helped us with our homework for this new endeavor.

Please keep talking to us and writing to us. And please keep reading our stuff. As all growers know, optimism can be fulfilling.

Stephen Kloosterman is the managing editor of Organic Grower.

Be sure to check out our other specialty agriculture brands