Why Organic Family Farms Matter

(And why this partnership was created)


Why Support Family Farms?

Here in the northeast, where farms tend to be smaller than in other parts of the country, family farms are the lifeblood of our treasured rural areas. These farms are not just workplaces for farm families—they are their homes, and in many cases, have been in the same families for generations. This is where children are raised and where kids, parents, and grandparents live, play, and work each day. Because these farms are their homes, family farmers.


usda organic logo

Why is Organic Important?

Organic Family Farms have been certified by specially licensed and trained auditors to comply with USDA organic regulations covering factors such as soil quality, animal-raising practices, pest and weed control, and use of chemicals. Organic farmers work with nature to allow the soil, crops, pasture, and animals to flourish without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, artificial hormones, or GMOs. Over 700 synthetic agricultural chemicals are expressly prohibited by USDA organic regulations.

There are truly countless ways in which organic farms benefit all of us. Here are a few:

Organic Farmers Build Healthy Soils - Organic farmers focus on building healthy soil, utilizing crop rotation, covering crops, and using natural fertility sources like compost or manure to enrich the land they farm on. This builds long-term fertility for future farm health and increases biodiversity while significantly decreasing harmful environmental impacts. Organic farms have been scientifically shown to sequester 26% more carbon in their soils than non-organic operations(1.) Studies have also shown that organic farms produce less nitrogen runoff than conventional farms(2), which helps to protect our region’s beautiful lakes, rivers, streams, estuaries, and wildlife.

Organic Farms Avoid or Minimize Harmful Chemicals - A number of studies show either dramatically reduced or a complete absence of pesticides and other chemicals in organic milk. In one study, residues of several particularly toxic pesticides were found in 26-60% of conventional (non-organic) milk samples, but none were found in organic samples(3).

Organically Raised Livestock Are Healthier - Organic cows are healthy cows. Veterinarians say that organically raised cows live twice as long as conventionally raised ones. Organically raised cows must have 120+ days per year in pasture and ready access to shade and clean shelter, all under the care of organic farmers who often know each one by name. Pasture grazing not only improves the quality of their milk, but they also enjoy healthier body weight, hoof, and joint health. Organic cows fertilize their own fields, churn up and aerate pasture with their hooves. In organic dairy, healthy, happy cows are the star players.

Organic Farmers Are Climate Heroes - Because organic farming bans the use of synthetic fertilizer, studies estimate that on a per-acre basis, organic soil management can reduce nitric oxide (N2O) emissions by over 40%(4). The manufacture of synthetic fertilizers alone comprises as much as 10% of global agricultural emissions. In short, organic production methods significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and use less energy because of the decreased use of fossil fuel-based inputs(5).

To summarize, organic family farmers are outsized contributors to a healthy environment and thriving rural life. Family farms have been the lifeblood of our region’s food system, and they deserve our support. We must do everything we can to keep the at-risk 135 organic farms, and all of our region’s organic family farmers, in business and our communities.


Family Farms Reconnect Us to the Land and Each Other

They provide our communities with beautiful open spaces, abundant wildlife habitats, and rural charm. We pick fruit in their fields and orchards and pet their cows at county fairs. Family farms remind us where our food comes from—and how good it can taste.

When you pledge to buy the products from our region’s organic family farmers, you are not just helping to keep these farms financially viable. You are supporting true Environmental and Health Heroes. Moreover, you are helping to support a fairer, more stable agricultural market, which keeps thousands of small family farms in business and thriving. In fact, organic milk prices are traditionally more stable than the conventional dairy market, so organic farmers often have an easier job of covering production costs. That means they have a better chance of keeping the lights on at the farm and the cows out in the pasture, where they belong.

Organic family farmers, after all, are our neighbors. Their lands are buffers against development and toxic chemicals, and they support vibrant ecosystems for native plants and animals. These farmers also support and enhance the local economy as business owners and employers. Washington State University researchers calculated that Organic farms have been shown to be 22-35% more profitable than conventional farms.

If you want to learn more:

The Organic Center. TOC conducts and convenes credible, evidence-based science on the environmental and health effects of organic food and farming and communicates the findings to the public.

TOC’s toxins avoidance calculator:

TOC’s organic milk study:

Maine Organic Farming and Gardening Association (MOFGA). Formed in 1971, MOFGA is the oldest and largest state organic organization in the country. MOFGA is a broad-based community that educates about and advocates for organic agriculture, illuminating its interdependence with a healthy environment, local food production, and thriving communities. www.mofga.org

Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA). The Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) is a coalition of seven NOFA state chapters. NOFA’s purpose is to advocate for and educate on organic and sustainable agriculture, family-scale farming and homesteading in rural, suburban, and urban areas, agricultural justice, and other related policy issues. www.nofa.org

Organic Voices. Organic Voices is an educational campaign about the benefits of Organic. www.onlyorganic.org


References Cited

  1. www.organic-center.org/practices-boosting-carbon-sequestration
  2. www.organic-center.org/effects-organic-farming-practices-nitrogen-pollution
  3. www.cambridge.org/core/journals/public-health-nutrition/article/productionrelated-contaminants-pesticides-antibiotics-and-hormones-in-organic-and-conventionally-produced-milk-samples-sold-in-the-usa/D1107FE30C778A73F5F601C5D3D6E572#
  4. www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-38207-w
  5. iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab7029/pdf
  6. news.wsu.edu/press-release/2015/06/01/organic-agriculture-more-profitable-to-farmers/#.VW-FM2TBzGf
  7. www.motherjones.com/food/2015/06/organic-farming-more-profitable-conventional



The Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership is an educational project affiliated with the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, a 501(c)3 Charitable Non-Profit Organization. Our efforts to educate and build a region-wide commitment to helping to keep the northeast’s organic family farmers financially supported and viable depends completely on the generosity of our donors. All donations are tax deductible. Please donate whatever you can by clicking the button below.