American agriculture has many faces and the organic one is a female face. Women are the backbone of an industry that has nearly doubled in the United States, thanks even to specific support policies by the Government. This is the theme of the meeting held on Thursday, October 8 at the USA Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015, a kind of general status on American organic agriculture with the participation of Anne Alonzo (United States Department of Agriculture), Laura Batcha (Organic Trade Association), Ariane Lotti (Tenuta San Carlo), Monique Marez (Organic Trade Association), Liz Neumark (Great Performances & Katchkie Farm).
All the analyzes agree, the organic market is healthy and strong and continues to conquer new consumers worldwide. A trend that is becoming real even in the United States of America, thanks to a network of small to medium sized manufacturers placed beside big companies, in particular in distribution. “In the United States, organic farming started to develop twenty-five years ago, but the turning point came in 2002 with the introduction by the Government of an official certification system - said Anne Alonzo - since then we have achieved the goal of 20,000 farms passing to organic methods by 2015, because there are around 19,400 like these in the United States today.” Asked why the sector has such a strong female presence, it was agreed that women as more open to change:
“Agriculture is a typical male environment and it is not easy for a woman entrepreneur - said Ariane Lotti, an Italian-New Yorker who manages a farm between Rome and Florence - but with regards to the choice of switching to more environmentally friendly methods, women are often the protagonists, probably because they are more likely to be the masters of change, taking on the risks.”
The connection with the land
What is striking is the strength and the roots of organic agriculture in a country like the United States, home to an agricultural model founded on quantity, economic competitiveness and performance. The meeting at the USA Pavilion showed an unexpected reality, made of urban vegetable gardens, farmer markets, school canteens converted to organic and farm holidays for city children. At the center, there is the great need to restore a connection with the land, the source of food and full of meaning. “Today more and more people live in big urban centers and have lost connection with the places where their food is produced, to the point that they do not even ask themselves this question", said Liz Neumark. "One of the activities we carry out at our company in the Hudson valley is accommodating groups of city boys and girls eager to experience the countryside.”
“I advise young people who dream of becoming organic farmers to study, to understand the kind of cultivation they are interested in, the products they intend to make and on what territory", said Laura Batcha, "but also to start a real experience on a farm immediately”.