Archive for September, 2011

Organic Farming Trends In The United States

September 4, 2011

Although organic agriculture is only a small fraction of U.S. agriculture, it is growing at a very rapid pace.  Below are some graphs that illustrate that growth rate.

NOTE:  All source data in this post are from the USDA web pages devoted to organic farming.

First, here is the amount of farmland certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as organic.  The graph shows the number of acres for range land and crop land.

First, notice that both types of use are growing exponentially.  Second, notice that crop land is growing at a faster pace than range land, and that the curve is much smoother than the range land use.  This pattern is consistent with the rapid growth of food co-ops and the philosophy of localism, which will be dealt with in a later post. (click the graph to get a larger picture)

Next is the average size of each organic operation.  These operations are typically small, ranging from just a few acres to not much larger than 500 acres.  In this case, the trend is linear rather than exponential, indicating that the production per operation is increasing faster than the number of operations. (click the graph to get a larger picture)

Next is livestock.  Typically, organic livestock operations have been small compared to vegetable food crops, but they are growing at a rapid rate.

The graph below is of cattle production, both for beef and for dairy.  Dairy production is by far the largest segment of this sector, and is growing at a much greater pace.  I wish that I could have found goat trends, but when I do, I will post them.

The next graph is of hogs and pigs, and you can see how this sector has also been growing at a rapid pace.  As with so many other sectors, the trend line fits an exponential curve.

Finally, in this section for livestock, is the growth in sheep and lamb.  As with the others, the best-fit curve is exponential.

Finally, is poultry production.  This is divided into broilers and layers, and broilers are the greatest and fastest growing of the two.  By looking at the growth curve, you can see that broilers are also exponential, but with my limited software, I couldn’t get the exponential regression line to show, so I just substituted a linear fit


Although this has been a short post with little narrative, this evolving trend will be expanded on in the future.