Tom Manley, President of Homestead Organics near Cornwall, Ontario and Dan Bewersdorff, Organic Grain Program Director of Herbruck’s of Saranac, Michigan will be offering similar prices. (Although Herbruck’s is based in western Michigan they source from Ontario as well as Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana.)
Even with organic yields being lower than conventional, Tom estimates that for 100 acres of organic corn, farmers could increase their profit by $700 to $1360 per acre versus conventional.
And it’s not just corn. “I need a lot more of everything,” says Tom. “Growing niche products such as hops, millet or hemp isn’t necessary. There are very strong markets for soybeans, corn, wheat, barley and oats,” he adds. All three buyers expect organic soybean prices to be in the range of $29 to $34 per bushel.
“In my 17 years in organic, the prices have never been so high. They’re 2 to 3 times that of conventional,” says Tom. “It’s very lucrative,” he adds.
Demand for organic grains is being driven by consumer demand for organic food in a wide variety of categories. As the largest organic egg producer in the United States with over 1 million chickens, Herbruck’s sees this trend first hand.
“The demand for organic eggs is growing so then the demand for organic grain grows too,” says Dan. “What we can offer growers is a good, solid, established market,” he adds.
With strong demand and prices two to three times that of conventional, why aren’t farmers lining up to convert?
“It’s a big step and requires people to change how they have been farming for the last two generations,” say Dan.
Rita notes that, “many conventional farmers have also taken on jobs off the farm. Their plates are already quite full without adding the learning curve of converting to organic.”
“When a farmer is operating a thousand acres and it’s profitable, there’s that idea of ‘if it’s not broken, why change?’,” says Tom. “It’s very sad that farmers aren’t converting. Consumers want more organic, and farmers are missing an opportunity to step up to the plate,” he adds.
Personal reasons have often been a key motivator in becoming organic. Rita notes that many organic farmers, “have experienced health challenges in their families and started re-thinking chemical applications.” She also finds that “family farms are sometimes looking for an income boost so they can include more family members in the operation.”