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Wisconsin ranks No. 2 in the nation for the number of organic farms, according to the latest U.S. Census of Agriculture.

Organic operations make up 2 percent, or 1,276, of Wisconsin's farms.

The state has unique opportunities for growers who want to go organic, said Lauren Langworthy who leads the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service.

"The state has been very supportive of farmers who are interested in getting into organic production and has, primarily through this kind of peer-to-peer network, really helped farmers develop a marketplace for themselves and the education that they need to be successful," Langworthy said. 

The federal agriculture census shows California is the only state with more organic farms with 2,713. Langworthy said she isn’t surprised by that, because California has more land and more people. 

Langworthy said Wisconsin can still do more for organic farmers. Research in organic farming helps organic growers and can benefit traditional farms, she said, and it doesn’t necessarily work the other way around. 

"Rather than subsidizing practices that can negatively impact the public good in terms of our waterways and our soil health, we should really be looking at how do we support these good conservation practices?" Langworthy said. 

The census includes additional information about Wisconsin’s farming landscape, including: 

  • The number of farms and the amount of land decreased from 2012, while the average farm size increased 6 percent.
  • The average age of all Wisconsin producers is 56 years old. That’s 1.5 years younger than the national average.
  • Wisconsin ranks No. 1 in cheese production, corn for silage, cranberry and snap bean production.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture conducts the agriculture census every five years. The goal is to provide a comprehensive, detailed picture of the country’s farms and ranches.

This article is reprinted with permission from WI Public Radio

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