by Erica Fink | Jul 6, 2016 | Green Business Network
Harn Soper, a Green America colleague and industry advisor to Green America’s Non-GMO Working Group, recently wrote for Green Money on the economics of organic agriculture. He shares his breadth of knowledge as founder of Sustainable Farm Partners, LLP (SFP).
With organic food sales growing from $1 billion in 1990 to over $40 billion today and higher US demand than supply, the opportunity for investing in organic agriculture is swelling. The people, planet, and investors benefit when this opportunity is seized.
What we consider organic farming today (choosing not to use pesticides, herbicides, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics, growth hormones etc.) was less of a “choice” prior to WWII but rather a way of subsisting. Food came locally and from smaller farms. By WWII a push to provide for millions of soldiers and to massively produce not only food items but also chemicals for weapons drove us into the industrial food economy of today– one that is racked with unhealthy and unsustainable food practices.
In 1990, what was once common generational knowledge of sustainable agriculture needed to become defined and regulated by law through the Organic Foods Production Act. Today, organic foods display a seal that differentiates their value as organic from unregulated foods.
With mounting research on the risks of genetically modified foods and associated farming practices, “a new understanding is emerging about how poor soil health impacts our health and our wealth,”writes Soper. Thus, the demand for organic agriculture, the only certifiably healthy farming practice, is growing and growing. It is led by moms and millennials.
A rise in our sustainable food production has the potential to bring a much brighter future for our people and planet. And it can succeed doing this because it is a profitable business opportunity.
Soper provides insight into this profitability by sharing his own farm’s net operating income as they transitioned from conventional farming to organic.
Sustainable Farm Partners provides the opportunity to invest in the economic and environmental benefits from the shift to organic on a larger scale. They replicate their proven farming model, developed from a decade of firsthand experience, throughout the best farmlands available in Iowa. Though generational knowledge of maintaining healthy soils may have been lost to many conventional farmers come the industrial food economy, Sustainable Farm Partners helps spread techniques in organic grains and crop rotation to revive the tradition of healthy farming.
How do their partnerships work? SFP provides the land and contributes with expenses, and operators provide the labor, equipment, and fuel. Crop shares ensure everyone has a stake in the game and is on track to prosper. The organic operators are offered first right of refusal to purchase the farms at market prices come an exit—ensuring a knowledgeable buyer and a chance for farm partners to increase their equity. SFP is also creating new value in their up-and-coming Regenerative Farming Easement program. The unique effort will allow each farm to be on the cutting edge of organics, possibly receive direct payments through USDA Agricultural programs, and to potentially receive tax credits for investors.
Our food system will never be what it was prior to its industrial transformation, but to ensure a healthy future for the earth and humanity, we must work with the power of nature to relearn how to grow food sustainably. Harn Soper’s Sustainable Farm Partners is investing in that future and seeing returns.
For Harn Soper’s article read here.