Organics: From Markets to Management
Posted August 31, 2018 by Dani Kusner
On Aug 21, 2018, The Andersons Food Ingredients and Specialty Grains team held the first Organic Market Update meeting in Blissfield, Michigan to share about organic and non-GMO market conditions, as well as provide an opportunity for relationship-building between current and new organic and transitioning growers from Michigan and Ohio.
The Andersons organic and non-GMO originators, Carleigh Nobach and Matt Moser, provided a thorough overview of organic pricing to date, along with trends over time and some forward-outlook. An overview of how The Andersons is interpreting and managing risks associated with the organic import market was of interest to growers. As a participant at this meeting (along with several other organic meetings throughout the year), I often sense the real anxiety that organic farmers experience regarding fluctuations in pricing, a lack of organic integrity in imports, and concern about how large corporations entering the market will affect their future.
As an agronomist –and not a market specialist—first and foremost, I want to assure you that I hear your anxiety. Secondly, I want to empower you that there are agronomy solutions to help buffer against these risks. I’d much rather help farmers live within their power than complain about prices. As a brief overview, I offer the following suggestions.
- Biology: I would argue that your soil, and in particular your soil’s biology, is the biggest money-making asset that you own on your farm. If you tend to and feed the soil’s microbial communities, they will change your soil structure to allow for more water and air pore space, along with mining necessary macro and micro-nutrition. Learn as much as you can about this resource and how you can put it to work to improve your crop performance.
- Water: When you begin to pay more attention to biology, you learn that the water cycle quickly follows. There are a lot of scientists and consultants who are predicting that water is and will more dominantly become the most valuable input to manage on your farm. Can you believe that? Not nitrogen or phosphorus or manure, but water! Start now to explore how water is cycled on your farm and how you can make it perform most efficiently in your landscape.
- Diversity: Finally, diversity is a vital tool to continue to improve and protect your soil biology, water management, and financial portfolio. From lengthening your rotation, to trying to incorporate a new niche crop, to utilizing more cover crops, to becoming more creative with potential grazing opportunities, my advice is to try at least one new thing, even if only on small acreage, at least once a year. Most importantly, don’t forget to measure and evaluate it!
In conclusion, you cannot control market conditions (or the weather!), but you can control agronomic management decisions. The most successful organic and sustainable farms are very smart managers of biology, water, and diversity. If you have specific questions that you’d like to talk through about your farm scenario, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-891-2785.