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The Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers: Keeping the Dream of Farming Alive

As older farmers retire, fewer young farmers are stepping in to take their place. The number of beginning farmers dropped 20 percent in the last five-year census period, and the average US farmer now tops 58 years of age. more

CIAS Mini-Grants Support Graduate Student Research in Sustainable Agriculture

CIAS supports innovative graduate student research addressing the challenges faced by small- and medium-sized farms and food businesses. Awarded annually, our competitive mini-grants aid students as they initiate their research in sustainable agriculture and food systems. more


Announcing the 2019 Market Farm Madness Champion!

Hoophouse is your 2019 Market Farm Madness champion! They withstood high winds, late snow storms and controversy over cost share payments to win the tournament. more

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Organic Agriculture in Wisconsin: 2003 Status Report

Posted October 2003

Organic food sales in the US have grown 20% or more annually throughout the last decade and remain strong. Organic products are now available in 73% of supermarkets nationwide, particularly in urban and suburban regions. While organic sales currently account for less than 2% of total food sales in the U.S., organic sales are stronger in European markets. Sales growth for organic products has caught the eye of business giants such as Dole, General Mills, Dean Foods, Unilever, and other market-savvy processors. Some states, such as Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan, are following these trends by investing in organic marketing, research, and extension to support entrepreneurial growth in this value added industry.

Wisconsin farmers are leaders in organic food production, particularly in dairy. Wisconsin boasts the third-most organic farms in the country, behind California and Washington. Wisconsin dairy producers raise 22% of the nation’s organic milk cows, and they enjoy a price premium ranging from 80-115% over conventionally produced milk. Employing 240 people at their rural southwest Wisconsin headquarters, Organic Valley cooperative is the nation’s second-largest organic milk marketer, and the company has consistently ensured an above-average return to its member-producers.

Clearly, organic production is adding value to the state’s economy and has the potential to grow as Wisconsin urbanizes, nearby metro areas thrive, and demand from more distant markets grows.

This report discusses organic crop production, food processing, and marketing in Wisconsin and nationwide; federal, state, nonprofit and university support for organic agriculture; challenges faced by Wisconsin’s organic industry; and ideas about how Wisconsin can capture a greater share of the organic market.

Read the full report (PDF file)