Learn * Connect * Eat Well
Marin Organic builds community and commitment to local, organic farms and ranches – ensuring that consumers, both today and into the future, place a high value on local organic food and can readily make a choice to access those products.
We were founded in 2001 by an passionate group of farmers, ranchers, and agriculture advisors to put Marin County on the map as a committed organic county. Since then the organic acreage in Marin County has grown from 200 to 20,000. Today we count educators, entrepreneurs, advocates, and parents as collaborators in our quest to ensure that local organic agriculture remains at the core of our region’s identity.
- Following 10 successful years of building an organic community in Marin, we reflected through a strategic planning process about where we are going in the next 10 years. The result is an exciting and solid program focus shaped around three core areas.
- We provide experiential learning programs for youth and adults. We believe that experiencing an organic farm and connecting directly with farmers is a key step in deepening understanding and commitment our organic farms and ranches.
- Farm Field Studies is our on-farm education program for K-12 youth in the Bay Area
- Public Farm Tours provide learning opportunities for families and professional groups
- Food for Thought is our author, film and speaker series
- Farmer Dinners create opportunities to dine with organic producers at local restaurants
- We foster direct relationships between organic producers, restaurants, and consumers in the Bay Area.
- We believe these direct relationships strengthen commitment and support for local organic farms.
- Producer Members Program engages and assists local organic producers
- Business Member Program supports local restaurants and food retailers
- Friends Member Program provides opportunity for individuals and families to join the community
- We increase access to local organic agricultural products, especially for those with few opportunities to regularly enjoy them.
- Gleaning takes a volunteer corps into organic fields to collect unused produce and delivers it to local food banks and schools.
- Sow a Row matches organic farmers with local schools to grow specific organic crops for use in their meals
Why an All Organic Marin County?
Marin Organic is committed to creating the first all organic county in the nation; a county that acknowledges the inter-relationship between food production, environmental health and human health, social justice and the economic viability of small farms and ranches.
By maintaining organic integrity and going beyond the federal organic standards, Marin Organic presents a model of sustainable food production which guarantees a healthy future for the environment, local food producers, and county residents. By helping Marin County become the first all organic county in the nation, Marin Organic is addressing the following four areas:
Environmental : All Marin Organic members are certified organic. Using the national organic standards as a baseline, Marin Organic growers go beyond the National Organic Program to continuously improve their production practices. Some of their efforts include watershed restoration efforts which have resulted in the return of the Coho Salmon to Marin, implementing alternative energy sources, and enhancing biodiversity on the farm.
Economic : The number of consumers demanding tasty, locally grown, organic products increases every week. The Marin Organic label makes it easy to find them, thus insuring the economic viability of Marin County’s farms and ranches.
Social : Local organic food production feeds and supports not only the local infrastructure directly connected to farming, but many other small businesses as well. This ultimately contributes to the overall health and wealth of the county because a dollar spent in a community circulates an average of 7 more times before it leaves that community. In addition, Marin Organic carries out socially-oriented projects such as our Organic School Lunch and Gleaning Program and CSA (box program) in low income neighborhoods.
Political : Marin County is fortunate enough to have a Board of Supervisors (and other local governmental agencies) who wholeheartedly embrace local and organic agriculture through policies that protect it and direct financial support. This is in large part due to the dedication and commitment of local advocates such as Ellen Straus who co-founded Marin Agricultural Land Trust and Warren Weber, owner of Star Route Farms in Bolinas, the oldest continuously certified organic farm in California who, for years were in the forefront of both the agricultural and environmental movements. Ellen and Warren’s efforts laid the groundwork for the political decision makers of today who now value and protect our precious agricultural heritage.
On average, American farmers receive less than twenty cents per dollar for their products. The majority of your food dollar goes to middlemen, such as food brokers, distributors, and retailers. By comparison, when you purchase locally produced food, a much higher return per dollar goes to the farmer. In the case of farmers’ markets for example, the farmer receives 100% of each dollar you spend. In addition, when you spend money in your community, it gets spent an average of seven more times inside the community before it’s finally spent outside. So, when you buy locally grown produce, you’re not only supporting your local farmer, you’re also supporting the entire local economy.
A healthy community is the result of millions of decisions made everyday by the people who live there, and it can be altered by every single choice they make – even at the grocery store. That’s why we have developed the Marin Organic label – to make it easy for you to identify local organic products, and support your local farmer and your local economy. So, the next time you go grocery shopping, ask yourself how much influence on your local food system and your local economy you want to have, and look for the Marin Organic label.
Because it’s better for you
Time and again, studies have documented the health benefits of organically grown food over non-organically grown food, and not just because of the absence of chemical pesticides and herbicides. Organically grown produce consistently tests higher than non-organically grown foods for vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients, as well as showing much smaller amounts of nitrates, heavy metals and other contaminants. One of the main reasons for this nutritional discrepancy is that organic soil is much richer in minerals and micronutrients than non-organic soil. This is because non-organic farmers most often fertilize their soil with only three components: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, whereas organic farmers use a variety of fertilizers including compost, manure and cover crops. And what’s not in the soil cannot be absorbed by the plant. So when you buy organic produce you not only get chemical-free food, but you also get all the health benefits that rich, well-managed soil provides.
One more way organic foods are better for your health is that organic producers are not allowed to use any Genetically Modified Organisms or GMOs at any level of their production. This relatively new technology is little understood and inadequately tested to ensure consumer safety. GMO technology inserts genes from one species into another, in an attempt to transfer certain desired traits. For example, the Flavr Savr tomato was created when scientists inserted cold water fish genes into tomatoes to make them more frost-resistant and to give them a longer shelf-life. The consequences of crossing species barriers like this, which is impossible in nature, are unknown, as are the risks to human health and the environment. However, over 70% of all non-organic foods in the U.S. already contain GMOs. So, the only way to limit your exposure to GMO’s is by purchasing organic foods whenever possible.
Because it’s better for the environment
The foundation of organic agriculture is building and maintaining excellent soil. Soil management is even a requirement under the National Organic Program, the Federal Organic Standards released by the USDA in 2002 (for more information go to www.ams.usda.gov/nop). Plants grown on healthy soil are less susceptible to pests and so, the need for pest eradication is reduced. Chemical-based agriculture however, begins with soil which is already nutrient depleted. Plants grown on depleted soil are weaker and more prone to disease and pests, so more chemicals are needed every year. The farmer gets caught in a vicious downward spiral by becoming more and more dependent on harmful chemicals, eventually ending up with sterile soil and pesticide-resistant super-pests. On the other hand, when pests become a problem on organic farms, growers use Integrated Pest Management methods, which actually enhance the overall biodiversity and health of the ecosystem by introducing beneficial pests that restore nature’s balance. Organic farming doesn’t just protect the soil though. It also protects other resources as well, such as water. Rich organic topsoil has a huge water-holding capacity so less water is needed for irrigation. In addition, by not using harmful chemicals on the farm, waterways, rivers and streams are kept cleaner.
Systems which integrate the environment, the economy, and social concerns in a way that can be maintained in a healthy state indefinitely can be defined as sustainable. Therefore, a sustainable agriculture must be economically viable, socially responsible, and ecologically sound. In terms of food production, a sustainable agriculture cannot use up resources (soil, water, labor, community support, etc.) faster than it can (re)produce them. On the other hand, any type of agriculture that uses up or degrades its natural resource base, or pollutes the natural environment, will, over time, lose its ability to produce food and fiber. At the same time, agriculture that isn’t profitable will drive farmers out of business. What this means is that agriculture that fails to meet the needs of both the environment and society cannot be sustained.
That’s why Marin Organic producers produce organic foods, going beyond the organic rule and implementing approaches that contribute to the overall sustainability of local agriculture. So, look for the Marin Organic label at retail outlets and farmers’ markets throughout the Bay Area. Future generations will thank you for it.