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.
CCOF’s membership of certified-organic producers, processors, and retailers has reached 2,700, and today we certify more than 2,000,000 acres of organic land. 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.
Organic food is more widely accepted by the public and agricultural community than it was in 2002, so 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.
CCOF is pleased to announce the Future Organic Farmer Grant Fund! Through this fund, the CCOF Foundation and the UNFI Foundation, in collaboration with partner organizations Driscoll’s, Organic Valley, Bradmer Foods, and the National Cooperative Grocers Association fund grants in three educational categories: kindergarten through eighth grade, high school, and vocational and higher education.
In a statewide partnership with Ag in the Classroom, kindergarten through eighth grade grants are awarded for classroom projects in California schools (the application period will reopen in 2015). The high school granting category will be for individual Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) projects and will be available nationally through a partnership with Future Farmers of America (application period will open fall 2014). The vocational and higher education grants are awarded through the CCOF and UNFI Foundations for students across the United States (the application period will reopen in 2015). A goal of the program is to assist students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
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. 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.
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.
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. 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.
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.