SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -- Exploding consumer support for organic products has yet to substantially open the direct-to-retail door for farmers of those products, according to a survey released by the Organic Farming Research Foundation.
The Third Biennial National Organic Farmer's Survey, reported that -- while 77% of organic farmers would like to increase their sales at the local level -- only 7% reported that they actually marketed their goods directly to retailers. The remaining 13% sold their products directly to the consumer and 80% marketed their output to wholesalers.
The results were culled from 1,192 respondents, covering the December 1997 through February 1998 production year.
According to survey results, organic farmers experienced the most difficulty when trying to break into the retail sector. The survey showed that 25% of the respondents indicated that direct-to-retail was the most difficult, while 15% cited consumer-direct markets as the most difficult.
Independent of the retail goals, the study found that farmers still plan to focus heavily on direct-to-consumer marketing. Results showed that 74% of those polled are hoping to increase their direct-to-consumer marketing strategies.
The study also discovered that 75% of the respondents reported that they ran farms categorized as "all organic," while 24% ran mixed organic and conventional farms.
Other issues derived from the report included increasing concern over the number of barriers faced by organic farmers, especially the concern over the consumer's perception of the word "organic."
Specifically, 21% of the respondents said they fear a "lack of consumer understanding" regarding organic food, followed by 16% indicating a "lack of organic marketing networks" and 14% indicating a sizable distance between producer and market or delivery post.
Another concern by respondents was their lack of faith in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's ability to provide "strong organic rules." The concern is that weak rules could possibly undermine certification standards. The agency has been in the process of formulating a national organic plan.