Number of organic farms increases in Iowa

Photo: MGN
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CASCADE, Iowa (AP) -- The number of organic farms in Iowa is growing rapidly, but they still constitute only a small percentage of farms in the state.

Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that Iowa has seen a 42 percent increase in organic farms from 2008 to 2015. The state had more than 670 organic farms in 2015, which was less than 1 percent of the farms in the state.

Iowa Organic Association Managing Director Kate Mendenhall told the Telegraph Herald that a growing demand for organic products is driving the increase in organic farms.

"Consumers are definitely driving the market," she said. "There's a huge demand for organic products, and we're not filling that demand locally."

Kim and Marvin Lynch had their Cascade dairy farm certified as organic in 2009. The couple had to stop using fertilizers, insecticides and synthetic herbicides for three years before becoming certified.

Kim Lynch said it was worth the effort despite the challenging transition.

"It's definitely more labor-intensive. It's also more financially stable," she said. "Our only regret is that we didn't do it earlier."

Organic farms must also be evaluated yearly in order to maintain their certification, Mendenhall said.

Dubuque resident Joseph Ross transitioned his farm to organic in 2007. He said financial reasons as well as organic's reputation as being healthy and environmentally friendly spurred the switch.

"It's a type of farming that you feel good about doing," he said. "You know that you're delivering a good product."

Other states in the region have also seen a growing number of organic farms. Organic farms in Wisconsin increased by 38 percent from 2008 to 2015, and Illinois saw a 20 percent increase in that time frame.