An agricultural co-operative has been set up to help peanut farmers in South Georgia, USA, diversify their farms and reach new markets.
The Georgia Organic Peanut Association (GOPA) will market certified organic peanuts grown by its member and by any farmer wanting to use its services. Its charter also enables the organisation to market other organic farm products in the future.
GOPA’s initial membership comprises farmers across southern Georgia. Some exclusively grow certified organic crops while, for others, it’s a small portion of their overall operation.
The co-op was created as the demand for organic products is on the rise. It follows a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) project that was rolled out in the region by Georgia Organics – a non-profit organisation that champions organic agriculture and healthy families.
Led by Perri Campis, then a member of the Georgia Organics’ Farmer Services programme, the project educated growers on organic peanut production and developing the market for organic peanuts.
Ms Campis said: “There’s a misconception that organic farming is going back in time. We believe it’s important to keep alive the agricultural knowledge and practices that were in use before herbicides became such an important tool, but organic farming is all about using the latest genetics, technological precision and advanced data. With the growing customer demand for organic food, it’s as modern as you can get.”
Ronny Shingler, GOPA’s president, said: “We knew that organic farming could work in Georgia and that there was a robust market. Obviously, we were also attracted by the potential premiums that we could get for organic peanuts and other organic products.
“We believe that this is a historical moment for Georgia agriculture. Not only is this the first concerted effort by a group of farmers in this state to grow and market certified organic products, but it’s also a significant step to creating more market opportunities for all Georgia farms.”