Organics hold steady as production niche

09/06/2013 02:42:00 PM
Jim Offner

As the organic fruit and vegetable category continues to grow, organic production in Washington’s Skagit Valley grows with it.

“Up, up, up,” Steve Crider, Burlington, Wash.-based liaison for government and industry affairs for Petaluma, Calif.-based Amy’s Kitchen, said when asked about organic production in the valley.

“We’ve got some really fabulous fresh-market produce going on,” Crider said.

Product is available in wide assortment of pack styles and venues, including an increasing number of farmers markets in the area, Crider said.

“Organics is going gung-ho. The Seattle market can’t get enough,” Crider said.

Diane Dempster, who manages the locally grown program for Seattle wholesaler Charlie’s Produce, agreed.

“It’s really strong in organic production,” Dempster said of the Skagit Valley.

Charlie’s works with several organic growers and shippers in the Skagit Valley, Dempster said.

“It’s just a really big region for us for all those things like berries,” Dempster said.

There are limits, though, she said.

“It’s not so much in organic potatoes. The volume has dropped off a little bit because it’s a little hard,” she said.

But there are plenty of other options, Dempster said.

“There’s a lot of organic vegetables coming out of there,” she said.

Ben Goe, produce manager at Mount Vernon, Wash.-based Skagit Valley Food Co-op, which focuses “almost exclusively” on organics, said the area has a long tradition of strong organic sales.

“We have a lot of true believers here and people keep getting into the business, and we keep getting new farms certified organic,” he said.

The area has a burgeoning Latino community that is learning how to grow fruits and vegetables organically, Goe said.

“The people that are into it are here to stay,” he said.

Conventional production still dwarfs organics in the valley, but the latter continues to increase its presence, said Andy Ross, owner of Mount Vernon-based Skagit Flats Farm.



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