Farming expert and entrepreneur Tommy Harwood delves into the organic food trend and considers the market’s impact on the environment.
The trend for organic food both in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world continues, with sales up more than 50 percent in recent years alone. Soaring demand, however, has led to questions surrounding sustainability and environmental impact. A farming expert and entrepreneur from Whitethorn, California, Tommy Harwood takes a closer look at the matter.
“Since 2013, sales of organic food have increased by more than 50 percent,” reveals Harwood, owner and founder of Redway Feed, Garden & Pet Supply, Crop King, and business management services firm Good Elements, Inc.
Figures from the Organic Trade Association show that between 2013 and 2018, organic food sales increased by almost 53 percent to a total of nearly $48 billion.
With organic farming free of the harmful chemicals associated with traditional large scale agriculture, it’s widely seen as beneficial to the environment, according to Harwood. Farming in general, though, he says, still contributes significantly toward rising greenhouse gas emissions.
“In the U.S., farming overall accounts for approximately 9 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions,” Harwood explains. “Around half of this comes from nitrous oxide contained within soil, and caused by fertilizer use,” he adds.
Unlike traditional farming, however, organic production entails practices such as crop rotation and the use of so-called cover crops to promote healthy soil. “This,” Tommy Harwood adds, “helps to prevent erosion and, as a result, keeps greenhouse gas emissions to a minimum as healthy soil releases much lower levels of nitrous oxide.”
“At the same time,” he continues, “organic practices such as tilling can have the opposite effect, whereas using chemicals, instead, for weed suppression does not directly cause elevated nitrous oxide emissions in itself.”
Tommy Harwood suggests that it’s a fine balance, but believes the benefits of organic farming largely outweigh the few negatives.
“Reduced overall environmental impact,” he adds, wrapping up, “coupled with tastier, healthier produce, often produced more locally than traditionally farmed goods, explain why, among other reasons, the organic food market continues to see such a boom in sales.”
Entrepreneur and farming expert Tommy Harwood, a resident of Whitethorn, California, moved to southern Humboldt County in 1996. Determined to create a successful business opportunity both for himself and the community, in 2007, Harwood established Southern Humboldt Farm, Feed & Ag Supply, Inc., now known as Redway Feed, Garden & Pet Supply. Today, the company supports the local economy and employs over 25 members of the small and tightly knit Redway community. Harwood’s other business ventures, meanwhile, include Crop King-a garden supply retailer-and Good Elements, Inc., which provides hiring, accounting, marketing, licensing, and other business management services to a wide range of clients both in Humboldt County and further afield.