Organic Seed Alliance

Rocky Ford sits in the heart of Colorado's Lower Arkansas Valley. It's known by some as the melon capital of the world and Coloradans across the state look forward to Rocky Ford cantaloupe each summer. Here, and in many other parts of the Valley, the economy is based on agriculture. Trying to maintain that history and adapt to new demands has left some mid-size family farms in peril, according to Dan Hobbs, director of advisory services for the Organic Seed Alliance.

"In the ‘80s, there was a lot of pressure for farms to grow—and what we’ve seen is farms getting bigger and bigger, and smaller and smaller. The farms in the middle, which in my mind is what needs to be focused on and the people we need to save and support, these medium-sized family based farms have been really squeezed, trying to compete in the wholesale marketplace," said Hobbs. "And this is where I believe organic seed production or other types of organic farming, coupled with direct marketing, a retail marketing model, can really help these farms."

$30,000 to support education and opportunities for farmers in southeastern Colorado interested in transitioning to organic farming. The grant was recommended by El Pomar Foundation's Southeast Regional Council.

The Southeast Regional Council recommended a similar grant for the same purpose in 2010.

Even while the economy has struggled recently, the organic food industry is experiencing unprecedented growth. According to the Organic Trade Association, U.S. sales of organic food and beverages have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to $24.8 billion in 2009. Sales in 2009 represented 5.1 percent growth over 2008 sales. Experiencing the highest growth in sales during 2009 were organic fruits and vegetables, up 11.4 percent over 2008 sales.