The Numbers–Organic Farms in the South

Let’s take a brief look at the overall number of organic farms in the South, brought to you by the 2007 Census of Agriculture and our industrious friends over at the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. I’ve culled the following list from the table, Organic Sales as Percent of Market Value of All Agricultural Products Sold from Certified and Exempt Organic Farms: 2008 (a host of other informational tables available via link).

State # Organic Farms
Alabama 34
Arkansas 36
Florida 172
Georgia 103
Kentucky 103
Louisiana 23
Mississippi 31
North Carolina 246
South Carolina 34
Tennessee 83
Texas 372
Virginia 180


  • 1417/14,540 total organic farms, or about 9.7%, if my math is right. Considering the sizable land mass and population in this region, you’d hope for something slightly more substantial, say, at least ten percentage points higher.  Additionally, Kentucky, Texas and Virginia skew the numbers. I include them because they contain areas that exist inside my imaginary arc of the core South. But, even absent a map, I have no doubt that the majority of organic farms in those states lie outside of my Southern boundary: near the Ohio River, toward Austin and Dallas and by D.C., respectively. The same can be said for Florida, where, climate notwithstanding, 172 organic farms seems exceedingly paltry in one of the nation’s five most populous states.
  • On the other hand, this isn’t the total number of farms in the South employing organic methods or operating according to alternative sustainable certification, such as Certified Naturally Grown.
  • One of these states is not like the others. How about it, North Carolina?

What about the Youngsters?

Not surprisingly, the Greenhorns focus on the numbers in the Census pertaining to young farmers, regardless of production type:

Age group: Under 25 years –   54,197
Age group: 25 to 34 years  –   209,385
Total  0-34:   263,582

A quarter of a million to feed how many Americans down the line? Go, go, FFA.


2 thoughts on “The Numbers–Organic Farms in the South

    • That’s a really good question. Looking through the report and its appendices, I don’t see a clear definition. But I would imagine a farm proper is determined for the NASS by an income threshold–as opposed to physical size or specific crop (they count semen and feathers as organic products). The farm has to have some kind of visibility, through financial reporting or certification processing, so that the NASS can even know that it exists.

      While the following doesn’t answer your question any better, I’m copying it from the methodology explanation:

      “A certified farm meets NOP [National Organic Program] standards to market under the ‘USDA Organic’ seal. An exempt farm also meets the criteria for marketing as organic but, because of annual sales less than $5,000, is exempt from fees associated with certification.”

      The exempt farm does not have to be certified but cannot use the seal. The certified farm obviously has to be certified every year.

      I do think its misleading for the NASS to talk about organic farms en masse. It’s not as if all of the respondents are running biodynamic on-farm systems. How many of them, instead, are actually conventional producers with a small organic component?

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