Lessons From the Field: What I Learned From Surveying Organic Producers

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Written by Jessica González on Lunes, Octubre 30, 2023
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Organic Transition Grantee Alejandro Salazar installs an irrigation pipe by hand with his daughter, Fatima Salazar

Organic Transition Grantee Alejandro Salazar installs an irrigation pipe by hand with his daughter, Fatima Salazar.

Labor is one of the challenges we hear the most about. Organic producers make a commitment to grow and raise food using ecological methods, and one of the trade-offs is that organic farms have higher labor demands to maintain such practices. To dive deeper into the challenges organic producers are facing, I’ve surveyed organic producers across crop type, scale, and geography. 

One of the most significant takeaways from my conversations and survey intakes is an appreciation for the dedication and hard work of organic producers. Organic producers are not just growers but also laborers, often working long and physically demanding hours to maintain organic standards. Considering this, I knew I had to take several approaches to reach organic producers. I outreached to producers through email, phone, and newsletters and encouraged them to participate in our online survey form. Then, I decided to meet producers where they work and took to organic farmers’ markets to reach more producers. As of this fall, I’ve collected a total of 49 surveys. 

The survey revealed that labor challenges in organic production are complex. The lack of access to consistent labor poses a significant hurdle. Often, the demands of small-scale organic farming can be seasonal, with intense periods of planting, weeding, and harvesting. Finding and retaining seasonal laborers willing to commit to flexible schedules can be challenging and can impact the consistency of the labor force.

Additionally, the survey highlighted the issue of labor costs. Organic farming often requires more hands-on care, such as manual weeding and pest control. This can result in higher labor expenses, which, when combined with the smaller scale of many organic operations, can impact the viability of these farms. However, the survey also demonstrated the willingness of organic producers to advocate for policies that support them and their workers. 

We are still looking to survey organic producers and are offering a $25 stipend to organic producers who participate. The online survey should take no more than 30 minutes to complete and can be found at https://forms.office.com/r/fV3jYLMaK5

Please contact Jessica González at jgonzalez@ccof.org if you have any questions or concerns.