So do we. That’s why we are investing in the CCOF Foundation and asking you to join us by making your own tax-deductible contribution before the end of this year.
Between 2005 and 2009, the CCOF Foundation led the Going Organic project to provide information about organic certification and production to hundreds of agricultural professionals and helped 40 farmers to convert more than 4,000 acres to organic production. Going Organic also supported the introduction of the USDA organic seal by promoting its acceptance.
Organic seems to be everywhere from the local farmers' market and farm stand to the produce sections and shelves of major retailers. 82 percent of Americans report that they purchase organic products. But even so, organic remains less than 5 percent of all agricultural sales. While organic food is more widely accepted by the public and agricultural community than it was in 2002, the barriers to Going Organic have changed. A greater challenge to the organic movement has become producers’ access to key resources that support their economic success and viability.
That’s why the CCOF Foundation will invest in four key areas during 2014:
Supporting Young and College-aged Students and Other Individuals Who Aspire to Lead Careers in Organic Agriculture
Investment in agriculture is skewed toward conventional agriculture and agribusiness, and traditional channels for engaging young people and new farmers like Future Farmers of America (FFA), Farm Bureau, and 4H reflect the same bias. CCOF believes that a key challenge to growing future organic farmers is the lack of support within the existing farm education network (FFA, 4H, and various Farm Bureau programs) for young people and new farmers wishing to pursue projects or careers that focus on organic production methods. If young people were encouraged to pursue their interests in organic farming, their interests would “trickle up” and put pressure on community colleges and state universities to provide more career development and higher learning opportunities in the field of organic agriculture.
To help address the dearth of direct financial support to youth who wish to pursue projects or studies related to organic agriculture, the CCOF Foundation will establish the Future Organic Farmers Grant Fund: a fund of between $30,000 and $50,000 to provide direct grants to support at least 35 young people during 2014 and 2015 who are pursuing projects or studies in organic agriculture.
Hardship Assistance Grants – The Bricmont Fund
Today, there is no program that provides direct financial assistance exclusively to organic producers, processors, and handlers hit by unforeseen hardship, other than that which CCOF has provided annually since 2007. Further, farming is an inherently risky business with even successful operations having relatively small margins.
CCOF was founded by a community of farmers around the kitchen table at Barney Bricmont’s organic lettuce farm, defining CCOF from the early days as an organization of producers working together, innovating organic practices, and creating organic standards, even before the USDA National Organic Program was implemented in 2002. In this tradition, we formed the hardship assistance fund in 2007, now named after Bricmont, who passed away in 2011. This fund helps offset certification costs for organic producers who have suffered losses due to extreme hardships such as drought, fire, invasive pest losses, or other natural disasters. The Bricmont Fund is the only resource of its kind that we are aware of that provides direct financial hardship assistance to organic producers.
Organic Training Institute
From year to year, CCOF Certification Services sees about 5 to 7 percent of its clients drop out of organic certification, which is a typical attrition rate for all certifiers. There are several contributing factors to this rate, including cost, compliance issues, and lack of technical support. At the same time, new farmers enter into organic production each year, many of whom have a steep learning curve and would benefit from additional opportunities to access education and technical assistance directed specifically to organic production.
The CCOF Foundation supports current and prospective certified organic producers, processors, and handlers by providing a series of low-cost field days, workshops, and webinars to help improve and grow their operations.
Buy Certified Organic Campaign
Public awareness is one of the greatest challenges facing the organic community. Too many consumers are unable to distinguish characteristics of the organic label when compared to competing eco-labels like “natural” or “sustainable.”
To tackle one area of consumer confusion that directly impacts certified organic growers’ sales, CCOF launched the Buy Certified Organic campaign in 2011. This campaign annually prints and distributes “Buy Certified Organic” postcards at California farmers’ markets. Each postcard includes a “Buy Certified Organic” magnet, an explanation about the meaning of “certified organic,” and consumer tips for understanding farmers’ market signage. Misleading and confusing signage can be prevalent at farmers’ markets, including claims like “no spray” and “pesticide free,” which have no legal or verified meaning.
The backside of the card explains the reasons why consumers should buy certified organic. These include protecting your family’s health, stopping the spread of GMOs, removing additional antibiotics and hormones from the food chain, and defending the environment.
Our goal is to get these magnets on the refrigerator of every farmers’ market shopper in California and across the country!
It is through projects like these that we are going to change the way the world eats – one farmer and one consumer at a time. Every dollar that you contribute this year will go directly to supporting these programs, as CCOF, Inc. has provided seed funding for staff and overhead. Your support will go directly to Future Organic Farmer Grants, The Bricmont Fund, technical assistance, and consumer education.
Please make your tax-deductible contribution before the end of the year by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your support of the CCOF Foundation.