Michigan Organic Listserv

March 8, 2022

Michigan State University

Dept of Community Sustainability

From the Desk of: Vicki Morrone


This is information to share with you-not intend to promote goods or services.


Whats up??

News about orgnaic production and practices

Educatonal Educational Events upcoming


employment opportunities



News about orgnaic production and practices

‘There’s no doubt in my mind that (organic) will keep growing’

From AgAlert https://www.agalert.com/story/?id=15611

With sales of organic fresh produce continuing to grow, farmers say they remain optimistic about their market prospects, even as they face a potentially challenging season complicated by drought, shifting demand and higher costs.

The return of food service after pandemic-related lockdowns shuttered restaurants has not severely eroded growth of produce sales at retail outlets, where organic food purchases largely occur, according to food industry observers. Total U.S. organic produce sales topped $9 billion in 2021, an increase of $477 million compared to 2020, the marketing organization Organic Produce Network reported last month.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that it will keep growing,” said Monterey County grower Javier Zamora.

Yolo County organic farmer Jim Durst, seen here during the 2018 asparagus harvest season, says labor shortages have forced him to reduce his overall acreage this year. Photo: Ching Lee

As people become more mindful about their health and the foods they eat, Zamora said he expects demand for organic produce will continue to rise. Growth in demand has already spurred conversion of more conventional acreage to organic production, he added.

Despite stronger demand from food service in 2021, Dick Peixoto said his farm, Lakeside Organic Gardens in Santa Cruz County, did well last year selling produce to retail stores and companies that sell directly to homes. Peixoto said those markets remain “pretty good,” indicating that people who moved to eating more organic foods during the pandemic are sticking with it, which helps demand.

“A lot of them look to organic, as it is just one step in the right direction to eat more healthy,” Peixoto said.

He said he also thinks the organic trend has holding power as a new generation of shoppers raised on organic produce has an enduring allegiance to buying organic.

Because organic products are typically higher priced, San Diego County grower Noel Stehly said he thinks the sector will take a hit as shoppers pull back spending on organic items in reaction to overall inflation of food prices. He said he’s already seeing signs of this in his wholesale produce business and at his grocery store, Stehly Farms Market in San Diego.

“If people think it’s more expensive, they’re not going to pay for it,” he said. “People think they can get it cheaper if it’s conventional.”

As the state enters what could be another dry year, Paul Muller, a partner of Full Belly Farm in Yolo County, said water availability—more than market trends—will determine what crops and how many acres he can grow. It will also impact pricing.

For now, he’s planting everything from potatoes to leafy greens—crops that are “more water thrifty” during cooler temperatures. But the real test will be in the July-September summer months, when “we might see this whole system get a little bit stressed,” he said.

If the farm needs to reduce acreage, Muller said, it may mean dropping some of its wholesale business so it can maintain farmers market sales and subscription produce boxes—two areas “where we can create a dialogue about fair prices.”

To save water, Zamora said he will not be planting crops such as kale, chard, spinach and cabbage that require overhead watering. Instead, he will grow more leeks, scallions, onions, tomatoes and squash that can be irrigated with drip tape.

With restaurants coming back, Zamora said he may also look to grow more “boutique stuff” favored by chefs versus produce staples that are grown on a larger scale.

Muller said one area of concern for organic California growers is the influx of fresh-market tomatoes from Mexico grown in containers or hydroponic systems that directly impact the U.S. market.

Jim Durst, who grows organic vegetables in Yolo County, shares Muller’s concern. Despite “pretty strong” sales during the past two years, he said increased competition from Mexico has driven down prices for U.S. organic farmers. Because of demand for organic produce, he said, every retailer wants part of that market, and for many of them, “it really doesn’t matter where they get it, just as long as they have it.”

“If they’re buying organic cilantro from Mexico at 30% of what California growers are selling it for, then they’re going to buy it from Mexico because cheap sells,” he said.

Though the drought remains a concern for all California farmers, Durst said his cropping decisions are now influenced more by what he thinks he can harvest, not by what he can sell. Everything he grows must be handpicked, and during the past two years, he said he had to leave 30% of his crops in the field due to labor shortages. This year, he’s reducing his acreage by 30%.

With restaurants coming back, Sacramento County farmer Curtis Lucero, who specializes in fresh-market organic tomatoes and is known for his heirloom varieties, said he’s planting more of them this year while reducing acres of eggplant and peppers, which haven’t done as well.

He described 2021 as “our best year in a while,” having sold nearly everything he grew – and he’s expecting the same this year. Even so, he said his profit margin “went way down” because of higher production costs. He hasn’t raised prices in the past two years but will need to this year, he said.

After cutting short his 2021 season due to lack of surface water, Tulare County farmer James Birch said he plans to grow all his acreage this year because he now has a well. With his crops on drip tape, he said he’s also added more high-tunnel houses, which allow him to use “a lot less water” and extend his season.

Birch’s farmers market business consists largely of pre-sold orders from chefs and produce companies, with 20% in walk-up business. He said higher prices so far haven’t hurt demand because most of the chefs he sells to operate high-end restaurants that can absorb the higher cost by raising menu prices. Though his sales to restaurants evaporated in 2020, they’re now “back to normal, maybe even higher,” he noted.

“There’s huge demand for organic produce right now,” Birch said. “The restaurants that I sell to, they’re looking for organic produce. I think it’s the way of the future. I think the organic food market just keeps growing.”

 Ching Lee, California Farm Bureau Federation

Photo at top: Monterey County grower Javier Zamora, right, during a tour of his farm. Photo: Gary Pullano


Educational opportunities


Meet A Keynote Speaker: David Montgomery

Soil Health Innovations Conference: Soil for Water



Join us March 15 and 16 for the National Center for Appropriate Technology's Soil Health Innovations Conference and hear from national experts such as keynote speaker David R. Montgomery.


Montgomery is a MacArthur Fellow and professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington. He studies landscape evolution and the effects of geological processes on ecological systems and human societies. An author of award-winning popular-science books, he has been featured in documentary films, network and cable news, and on a wide variety of TV and radio programs. His books have been translated into ten languages. 


He lives in Seattle with his wife and co-author, Anne Biklé. Their new book What Your Food Ate: How to Health Our Land and Reclaim Our Health will be published this spring.




Mr. Montgomery is just one of many distinguished speakers and panelists who will present at this year’s conference. These leading experts and innovative farmers from around the U.S. will share the latest in soil science, best practices in soil management, opportunities for policy change, and the emerging technologies that will drive the future of sustainable and regenerative agriculture.


This will again be a virtual, interactive conference, offering producers and educators from around the country the chance to participate in this critical conversation about soil health. The live presentations will be recorded and registered participants will be able to view the recordings for three months.

Don’t miss this opportunity to examine current practices as well as the concepts, techniques, and practical applications that may be available in the future.


Speakers will include David Montgomery of Dig2Grow, Alejandro Carrillo of UnderstandingAg, and agroforestry expert Dr. Hannah Hemmelgarn. Find the full conference agenda, here.


Details and Registration


When: March 15-16, 2022


Where: Online 




Organizations, agencies, and individuals who would like to sponsor the conference can find sponsorship information here


Exhibitor and vendor information is available here


For more information, contact Rex Dufour at [log in to unmask] or Sandra Booth at [log in to unmask] or call 406-494-4572.



Pollinator Planting

Pollinators require flowers for nectar and pollen as food. Flowers are lost as land is changed and developed, making life harder for our important pollinators. Luckily, we can all help pollinators by improving our landscapes. We can improve our landscapes in many different ways: by planting pollinator supportive lawns, gardens, large-scale plots, trees and establishing native bee habitat.

Do what you can, when you can. Keep in mind that bigger pollinator plots make the most difference, but the additive effect of small plots and gardens can help too. Depending on your yard and budget, you will find a planting strategy that works best for you. Planting for pollinators is a rewarding and beautiful way to do something good for the environment.

It is also important to reduce pesticide exposure to the pollinators foraging on the plants you provide. You can find ways to prevent pests without using chemicals or you can make informed decisions when applying pesticides to make sure pollinators experience the least amount of harm.

Check out this link (https://pollinators.msu.edu/resources/pollinator-planting/)  for more information on the different ways you can plant for pollinators as well as minimize pesticide exposure.





Michigan Beekeepers' Association 2022 Spring Conference (Virtual)

7-9 p.m. | Online

The Michigan Beekeepers' Association Spring Conference is a great place to learn about beekeeping and honey bees!




Michigan Beekeepers' Association 2022 Spring Conference (Virtual)

7-9 p.m. | Online

The Michigan Beekeepers' Association Spring Conference is a great place to learn about beekeeping and honey bees!




Michigan Beekeepers' Association 2022 Spring Conference (Virtual)

7-9 p.m. | Online

The Michigan Beekeepers' Association Spring Conference is a great place to learn about beekeeping and honey bees!




Michigan Beekeepers' Association 2022 Spring Conference - In-Person

9 a.m.-5 p.m. | East Lansing, MI

The Michigan Beekeepers' Association Spring Conference is a great place to learn about beekeeping, honey bee health, and pollinator habitat!




Getting Started with Beekeeping at Michigan Ag Ideas to Grow With Virtual Conference

6:30-7:30 p.m. | Online

The Michigan Ag Ideas to Grow With virtual conference offers multiple educational opportunities, including a session for people interested in learning to keep honey bees and support pollinator health




Michigan Honey Festival

10 a.m.-5 p.m. | Corunna, MI

Do you like honey? If so, visit the Michigan Honey Festival. Join Michigan State University for live hive demonstrations.







Grant and Cost-Share Opportunities

USDA Sets Cut-Off Date for Stewardship Applications

EAST LANSING, Feb. 14, 2022 — A U.S. Department of Agriculture program that provides annual payments for land stewardship is available to Michigan farmers and non-industrial private forest owners. Applications for the USDA Conservation Stewardship Program must be submitted by March 15, 2022, to be eligible for the current selection period.

Through the Conservation Stewardship Program, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service helps farmers and forestland owners earn payments for implementing new conservation activities while maintaining agricultural production on their land. CSP also encourages adoption of new technologies and management practices. Program participants enter into 5-year contracts that encompass the entire farming or forest operation.

The Conservation Stewardship Program is offered in Michigan on a continuous basis. The program provides many benefits including increased crop yields, decreased inputs, wildlife habitat improvements and increased resilience to weather extremes. The program is for working lands including cropland, pastureland, nonindustrial private forest land and includes land under the jurisdiction of an American Indian tribe.

For additional information about the Conservation Stewardship Program, contact your local USDA Service Center. Producers can also apply online using the farmers.gov portal. Visitors wishing to conduct business with NRCS, Farm Service Agency, or any other USDA Service Center agency should call ahead to schedule an appointment.



Planning to Apply for the USDA Value-Added Producer Grant-You may want to attend the webinar to help with grant application

The MSU Product Center is hosting a series of workshops on the USDA Value-Added Producer Grant. If you are considering applying for the VAPG, due May 2, 2022, attending one of these free workshops, is encouraged. Officials from USDA Rural Development will be present for both the in-person and virtual sessions.   Click here to Register


The Value-Added Producer Grant program helps agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and/or marketing of bio-based, value-added products. Generating new products, creating and expanding marketing opportunities, and increasing producer income are the goals of this program. Grant and matching funds can be used for planning activities or for working capital expenses related to producing and marketing a value-added agricultural product.



Wendy Wieland


Wendy Wieland (she, her, hers) 

MSU Product Center Innovation Counselor &

MSU Extension Community, Food and Environment Institute 

Emmet County MSU Extension

3434 Harbor-Petoskey Road

Harbor Springs, MI 49740

Office: 231-439-8987

Cell: 231-881-6918



Employment Opportunities


The Michigan State University Student Organic Farm is hiring for full-time student farm crew positions (M-F 7am-3:30pm) this summer. To learn a bit about the farm, check out our site: https://www.canr.msu.edu/sof/ . We are a learning center that trains beginning farmers and offers class and field experiences. We are seeking crews to help with farm work and our markets.


Here is our application form. The application lists the start times and amount of time expected from those hired.


I look forward to hearing from you!


Sarah Geurkink she/her/hers

Student Organic Farm Manager | Michigan State University





If you would like to receive job openings in food systems from around the US you may want to subscribe to Comfoods Employment @ https://elist.tufts.edu/sympa/subscribe/comfoodjobs?previous_action=info



Vicki Morrone

Organic Farming Specialist and Beginning Farmer Educator

Dept of Community Sustainability, Michigan State University

[log in to unmask]

+ 1-517-282-3557 (cell and What’s app)

Sorrone11 (skype)

If you would like to access a searchable archive of the all the previous Mich-Organic listserv postings copy this URL and paste in your browser address field http://list.msu.edu/archives/mich-organic.html