Oklahoma Organics: Sales Soar, But Farm Numbers, Acreage Lag Nation

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The latest USDA data on organic agriculture show continued growth in in the number of certified organic farms and acres nationwide, as well as a 31% increase in sales from 2016 to 2019. In Oklahoma, sales of organic products more than doubled over the same time interval, to a record $10.2 million.

However, a closer look at the data shows a more volatile situation than that figure would suggest. In 2017, Oklahoma farm sales of organic products dropped to $1.2 million, the lowest level since 2002. Meanwhile, the numbers of organic farms and acres have remained more stable, but low.

In Closer to Home, published soon after the adoption of the USDA organic standards, the Kerr Center reported that there were just 6 certified organic farms in all of Oklahoma in 2002, with total sales of $12,000. By the time of the next USDA Census of Agriculture, five years later, that number had spiked up to 158 farms, with sales ballooning to $3.5 million.

Just one year later, though, even as sales nearly doubled, to $5.6 million, the number of Oklahoma organic farms had dropped by almost half. By 2012, the number of organic farms in the state had dropped below 40, where it has remained ever since, with a low of 23 in 2015.

Over the same period, the amount of certified organic agricultural land has ranged from 30,000 acres in 2008 to just 6,000 acres in the 2015 nadir. Since then, it has remained relatively stable at not quite 20,000 acres.

Overall, organic farming and ranching have not caught on as quickly in Oklahoma as in the U.S. as a whole. Oklahoma has about 3.8% of both the farms and the agricultural land in the U.S., and nearly 2% of the agricultural sales. In the organic sector, though, Oklahoma has just 0.2% of the farms, and less than 0.02% of the sales, nationwide.

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