Part Four: Organic Farmers' Success
(Farmer's Market ambience + blacksmith - amb continues for several graphs)
White Every Saturday morning farmers from surrounding communities bring their produce to sell at the Davis farmer's market. Set up along a city block, the market's a kaleidoscope of colored produce and people in motion.
Spoto: Well this is very nice because they have the pistachios and this is a very good vendor here but I have my own favourites that I go to - down here is a bakery that has wonderful french bread
White: When it began the market just had produce but Davis shopper Lenore Spoto shows me stalls with oysters, olive oil, and almonds.
Spoto: this guy here has wonderful aubergines
White: Spoto comes to the market to find good organic produce fresh from the farm grown without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. The farmers market was actually started 25 years ago by organic farmers looking for a place to sell what was then unusual produce.
Main: there were no real farmers markets as we know em today...
White: Jeff Main
Main: ... and so people were "well I don't know ...go down and sell off the back of my truck?" and this ... and so we had a hard time getting people to come but we ended up with five farmers that first day and we all backed our pickups up and we were selling handfuls of green beans for 25c.
White: Today the Davis Farmer's market has 80 vendors and conducts an estimated $2,000,000 in business every year. Not all the vendors sell organic food, but nevertheless, this market and many others like it do reveal a statewide boom in organic agriculture. (Mkt SFX out) And the increase in supply has helped bring down what were once exorbitant prices. Bob Scowcroft of the Organic Farm Research Foundation says what's driving the growth now is consumer discomfort about food safety - particularly about genetically modified organisms or GMO's.
Scowcroft: We have seen nothing yet around GMOs and there are any number of environmental and possibly food safety reports to come out yet that will push more people "thats it - I just cant trust they refuse to label GMO food so Im just going to have to buy organic so that way I can be safe."
Checker: (on ambient reel)That all for you? Safeway card?
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White Supermarket chains such as Safeway now also carry organic produce and milk. Safeway's Deborah Lambert says one store has seen demand for organics double in two years. (Checker SFX fade)
Lambert: because of the consumer's interest and because of their desire to purchase it at a conventional supermarket like Safeway and because of our large buying power and because we want to satisfy that .that helps to drive the development of organic produce - it can't help but and that's why we see that that trend will continue to grow
White: Food companies General Mills, Heinz, Gallo and Gerber are also moving deep into the organic market with specialized product lines. But all this interest in organics is changing the landscape for small family growers like those in the Capay Valley, west of Davis. (Begin to bring in Sprinkler SFX ) The area's a rural haven where 15 small organic farms work together sometimes sharing equipment and trading produce so that each has a good selection to offer. This is where Jeff Main farms with his wife. Annie Main says the pressure to grow large volumes of consistent produce is pushing aside the small farmers who started the organic movement.
Annie Main: the wholesale markets that we normally sell to - because we're so small and organic growers have gotten so large there's no longer place for us there. so were in the position of creating more markets
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White Annie Main has started working with an acupuncturist to grow organic herbs for Chinese medicine.
(tractor rooster SFX)
Annie Main: that's another one thats an artemisia - she wants the seeds of that one so were letting that go to seed and we have another artemisia thats similar to that but we just harvested it .so we're sort of playing around with it..
White: The project promises to open a market that didn't previously exist. Traditional herbal remedies from China are notorious for being mislabelled and may contain residues of pesticides long banned in the US. The Mains also offer Community Supported Agriculture - boxes of organic food delivered weekly to families in Davis and the East San Francisco Bay. (Fade out rooster/tractor) Annie Main gives cooking classes in how to use the vegetables and publishes a newsletter which is almost as popular as the produce itself. Bob Scowcroft says this kind of outreach is the way small organic farmers will survive The Organic Farm Research Foundation runs a survey of organic farmers each year.
Scowcroft: 77% of organic farmers are looking to direct market in the next few years - now it may be to a restaurant, it may be to a church congregation ...but personal relationships seems to be a major goal of a majority of organic farmers out there.
White The desire for connection led the Mains to help start what has become one of the most successful harvest festivals in California. (music up and under to end of piece) The annual Hoes Down takes place at the neighboring Full Belly Farm and is a weekend of camping, music and farm life.
MC: (That takes place behind the chicken coop) And at five o clock - the fourteenth annual manure pitch off will be happening it is a fascinating cultural document of what happens on farms when no one's watching (and that also takes place behind the chicken coop)
White The Hoes Down takes the farmer's market idea one step further and brings consumers to the farm to see where and how their food is grown. The farmers say it's the kind of thing big supermarkets like Safeway will never be able to do. For the California Report, I'm Robin White in the Capay Valley