Reporting Bill Hudson
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Four times each week, Phua and Blia Thao head to the Minneapolis farmer’s market with crates of fresh produce.
Their displays of chemical-free vegetables are rich in both color and nutrition. Blia said that a health-conscious consumer is driving an increase in his business.
“Customers say so many people are getting sick and they don’t understand, is it chemical or what?” Blia said. “So now they want organic vegetables.”
Currently, the Thao’s can market their produce as only “chemical free” and not as certified organic. But by this time next year, they’ll be state certified after completing a rigorous three-year process.
“Everybody wants it,” Phua said. “They want to be healthy, so everybody is looking for it.”
This rising demand for organically produced meats and vegetables, dairy and eggs is growing the profits of organic farmers.
According to a study by the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, organic farming is becoming more profitable too.
In 2012 the median net income of Minnesota’s organic farmers more than doubled, increasing to $85,000 per year compared to only $38,000 in 2011.
However, the higher net profit remains less than half of that posted by the average conventional farmer in the state. They posted net farm income of around $200,000 in 2012.
The number is a bit misleading because that income is generated on a farm that is two to three times the acreage when compared to the average organic farm operating.
Christina Nicholson is the operations manager at St. Paul’s Mississippi Market, a natural foods coop that specializes in organically produced foods.
“It’s greener, it’s fresher and it’s grown closer to home so families are buying more of it,” Nicholson said. “When that all comes together it drives what I think is a healthier economy.”