By Meredith Cohn and Tim Wheeler
Baltimore Sun reporter
It seems that organic farming is gaining a nice foothold in America and are doing okay business-wise.
The Organic Production Survery conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows the amount of farmland dedicated to organic crops and livestock is still really small but growing fast.
It survey is the first widescale survey so there's not a lot to compare it to. But there are some telling numbers.
The survery said there are 14,540 farms that were USDA certified organic or exempt from certification because sales are less than $5,000 -- including 129 in Maryland. The number has doubled at least twice since 1990.
They farm 4.1 million acres of land in all 50 states, though California is home to 20 percent of the farms. That's up from about 1 million acres in 1990. (It's still only about a percent of all farmed crop and pasture land.)
In 2008, sales of organic products nationwide totaled $3.16 billion. Some $1.94 billion was spent on crops and $1.22 billion on livestock, poultry and their products.
Organic farms took in more in sales than conventional farms: An average of $217,675 verses a $134,807 average for all farms. But they also spent more on production: $171,978 on organic farms, compared with an average $109,359 on all farms.
Organic farming is largely local with about 44 percent of sales were made within 100 miles from the farm. Though, just 7 percent were direct to consumers at farmers' markets and other means. The rest went to wholesalers and retailers.
What about the future? More than 78 percent of the farms say they plan to keep up the organic farming and even increase production in coming years.
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