Alice Rolls, executive director of Georgia Organics, keeps a chart in her Atlanta office by which she measures the success of her efforts as the leader of the Peach State’s foremost sustainable agriculture advocacy group.
In 2004 when Rolls took over as director, there were just 25 certified organic farms in the state; over the next decade, as she watched organic production explode across the country, her chart crept up ever so slowly to show 70 organic farms in the state by 2014, representing less than 4,000 acres total. By comparison, New York and Wisconsin, two states roughly the same size as Georgia, had approximately 900 and 1200 certified organic farms (representing more than 200,000 total acres in each state), respectively.
Seeking to carve out a bigger slice of the organic pie, Georgia Organics launched the 100 Organic Farms Campaign in late 2014. The USDA had just announced its organic certification cost share program, which provides a reimbursement of up to 75 percent of certification costs, and Georgia Organics offered to cover the other 25 percent, hoping to eliminate one common reason farmers cite for not pursuing organic certification. The other reason is the bureaucracy associated with achieving and maintaining certification. To help mitigate this obstacle, Georgia Organics offered a half dozen workshops in 2015 to teach prospective organic farmers the ropes of the business and even offered free marketing consultations as well.