Don's Home Farming Contact
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California Farm Water Coalition Top 20 Threatened Major Land Resource Areas The San Joaquin Valley, California has been referred to as the single richest agricultural region in the world. See "San Joaquin Valley, California: Largest human alteration of the Earth’s surface."

Prices Rents Yields

Agricultural & Resource Economics UC Davis (530) 752-1517


UC Davis Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program

Yolo County started a 2-year project to link up new organic farmers with veterans in Nov. 2005. See and click on Entomology.
Contact Greg House 530 753-3361 or Rachael Long 530 666-8143.

California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF)

Joe Apple wrote:
I always found it interesting that organic farming advocates never discuss crop yield. I seem to remember that the major advantage of "modern" fertilizers s that they produce a higher crop yield than organic fertilizers.

Bob Groff responded:

"Model estimates indicate that organic methods could produce enough food on a global per capita basis to sustain the current human population, and potentially an even larger population, without increasing the agricultural land base."

"A team of scientists led by Catherine Badgley at the University of Michgan Ann Arbor in the United States has now refuted those common misconceptions about organic agriculture. Organic agriculture gives yields roughly comparable to conventional agriculture in developed countries and much higher yields in developing countries; and more than enough nitrogen can be fixed in the soil by using green manure alone."

Abstract only, requires subscription

"My hope is that we can finally put a nail in the coffin of the idea that you can't produce enough food through organic agriculture," Ivette Perfecto, a professor at the University of Michigan's school of Natural Resources and Environment, said in a statement.

Brooke Jennings responded:
Most of the studies cited by Bob Groff look respectable. But so did the other studies I have previously read of, which reached the opposite conclusion. Who is right? At this point I don't know. Groff's studies certainly force me to reconsider my previous beliefs on the subject. But these debates frequently take years to play out and for the real truth to emerge.

Literature Survey of Studies Comparing Organic vs. Conventional Farming Methods (pdf) at Asha
Summary (See above for more detail):
Cornell Bioscience (Vol 55:7) - 22 year study
  • Yields for corn and soy were the same between organic & conventional
  • Organic used 30% less energy, and less water
  • Organic resulted in less groundwater pollution & less erosion
  • Corn yields were lower by 1/3 in the organic fields during first 4 years
  • ...
  • Author felt organic can compete in corn, soy, wheat, barley and other grains, but not in cash crops.
Iowa State - 3 year study
Yields (Bushels/acre?)
Crop Conven-
Corn 176 167
Conventional Soybean 49 48
Food Grade Soybean 37 38
Oats   81
Alfalfa   3.5
Washington State - Apples - 6 years
  • Cumulative yield from 1995-1999 showed no statistical difference.
  • Organic apples were smaller than conventional (tends to be financially detrimental to grower). Organic firmness was always greater or equal to conventional.
  • Organic break-even point was projected to occur sooner than conventional due to price premium
  • Organic energy efficiency was about 7% higher than conventional, and 5% higher than integrated.
Institute of Organic Agriculture and the Swiss Federal Research Station for Agroecology and Agriculture
- 21 years
Published in Science (
Crops: potatoes, barley, winter wheat, beet, and grass clover
  • Organic yields were less by about 20%
  • Fertilizer use was less by 34% in organic as compared to conventional
  • Energy use was less by 53% in organic as compared to conventional
  • Pesticide use was less by 97% in organic as compared to conventional
  • Organic soils housed a larger and more diverse community of organisms

"brooke jennings" said:
But Congress has passed a law which makes it very expensive to convert land used to grow subsidized commodity crops to produce. Why would it do such a thing? Because agribusiness in California and Florida, worried about the competition, paid it to. If you want more locally grown produce, you'll have to pay your Congressman more than agribusiness has.

In the sort of industrial organic farming which supplies most of the organic foods in local supermarkets and specialty stores such as Wild Oats and Whole Foods, the fertilizer is usually trucked substantial distances. Organic fertilizer is heavier and bulkier than a nutritionally comparable amount of chemical fertilizer, and thus requires more energy to transport.

Back Yard Farming:
In a WSJ Article 4/22/2008, "When Neighbors Become Farmers" Roxanne Christensen of
Start-up costs for a one-eighth-acre farm run about $5,500, says Ms. Christensen of Spin-Farming. That includes a walk-in cooler to wash and store fresh produce, a rotary tiller and a farm-stand display. Annual operating expenses, including seeds and farmers-market stall fees, can add about $2,000. Such a farm can generate $10,000 to $20,000 in annual sales.

Agricultural Research and the Worlds Poor
In "Agriculture at the Crossroads", Science, Apr. 2008 they say:

Recent scientific assessments have alerted the world to the increasing size of agriculture’s footprint, including its contribution to climate change and degradation of natural resources. By some analyses, agriculture is the single largest threat to biodiversity. Agriculture requires more land, water, and human labor than any other industry. An estimated 75% of the world’s poor and hungry live in rural areas and depend directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihoods. As grain commodity prices rise and per capita grain production stagnates, policy-makers are torn between allocating land to food or fuel needs.

The International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) brought together governments, international organizations, and private sector and civil society organizations to address these challenges. The task was to assess the current state and future potential of formal and informal knowledge, as well as science and technology (S&T), (i) to reduce hunger and poverty, (ii) to improve rural livelihoods, and (iii) to facilitate equitable, sustainable development.
Their assessment acknowledges the enormous historical contributions of S&T to increased yields, nutrition, and aggregate wealth but also recognizes that gains have been uneven and that successes have been accompanied by environmental and social consequences. Production increases have not consistently improved food access for the world’s poor.

A meager one-third (about U.S. $10 billion) of all global research expenditure on agriculture is spent on solving the problems of agriculture in developing countries, home to ~80% of the global population.

Food Inc. Documentary
Literature Survey of Studies Comparing Organic vs. Conventional Farming Methods (pdf)
SPIN (S-mall P-lot IN-tensive) Framing
Sacramento Valley Farming

last updated 30 Nov 2005