Organic Consumers Association

Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy

Organic Movement Taking Root

He draws a picture of a bicycle and writes the words "Self-reliance is patriotic" every weekend on a large door at the Starkville Community Market where produce and fruit is sold.

Owners of the Lafayette Street business allow the public to paint messages on the door, and Mississippi State University student Ryan Storment, 23, is eager to share his ideas about environmental sustainability.

Storment has given up driving and now bikes everywhere he goes. He's also gone organic.

According to the Organic Trade Association, U.S. sales of organic foods and beverages grew from $1 billion in 1990 to an estimated $20 billion in 2007, and are projected to reach nearly $23 billion in 2008. Organic food sales are expected to increase an average of 18 percent each year from 2007 to 2010.

And some, like Storment, are growing their own. He created an organic garden in his apartment. "I feel very strongly that eating foods in their more natural state is very important to human health."

Storment planted tomatoes, banana peppers, eggplant and herbs in containers, using pesticide-free tactics to grow them.

"You can put marigolds around your plants to keep aphids off," he said. "And for things like nightshades - peppers and tomatoes - there are certain kinds of worms that will get them at night. All you have to do is tape a little bit of tinfoil around the stalk, and the worms and bugs can't climb up."

Steve Rozman, a political science professor and director of the Tougaloo Center for Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility, went organic many years ago. Rozman typically buys organic foods at the Fondren store Rainbow Whole Foods Co-operative Grocery.

"If you look at Kroger and some of these other supermarkets, there are more organic alternatives," said Rozman. "Five years ago, you would have found very little organic produce here."

The Tougaloo-Rainbow Sustainable Garden would have also been unheard of five years ago. The joint venture between Rainbow and Tougaloo was created on the campus in May behind the science building.

"We have done some digging, composting, planting seeds and we're getting a crop now," Rozman said. Some of the produce will be sold at Rainbow. Some will go to garden volunteers, and some will be donated to organizations like Stewpot.

Rainbow employee Michael Gentry, project coordinator, said the garden also will be used as a tool to generate interest.

"We hope everyone who comes out there gains some knowledge of organic gardening and sustainable agriculture," he said. "It's a starting point for their journey into being more sustainable and producing their own organic food."

The garden has two 50-by-50- foot and 150-by-60-foot sections of squash, beans, corn, tomatoes and watermelons. They also have a fruit tree orchard.

Gentry, a 30-year-old Starkville native, earned a degree in landscape architecture from MSU. He said the experience has made him want to become an organic farmer.

"I don't know about doing it as a full-time career, but I can make half of my income farming and bartering with people," he said. "There are also opportunities because people are interested in our knowledge of farming, so you can become a consultant. We can put in a garden for you and start the process, almost like a landscaping design service."

 William B. Evans researches organic vegetables, fertilizers and seeds at MSU's Truck Crops Branch Experiment Station in Crystal Springs.

Evans said there are several things driving the organic trend.

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