Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Lessons learned from the Upper Midwest Organic Marketing Project

  • T.L. Dobbs (a1), R.C. Shane (a2) and D.M. Feuz (a3)

The strategic implications of a major, unique effort in the U.S. to expand organic food and agriculture are examined in this article. The authors recently completed an evaluation of the Upper Midwest Organic Marketing Project (UMOMP), funded initially by The Pew Charitable Trusts, and under the guidance of the Midwest Organic Alliance (MOA). The UMOMP was designed to increase the land area under organic production in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin. On the supply side, the focus was on organic grain, edible bean, and dairy commodities. On the demand side, an increase in organic food consumption was the focus in the Minneapolis—St. Paul metropolitan area. The UMOMP not only encouraged growth in demand, but also aided in the creation of necessary regional organic production, processing, distribution, and retail infrastructure. The UMOMP was generally successful, notably in the increased involvement of mainstream grocery stores in providing and promoting organic food products. Part of this success was due to the MOA's help in forging broker and distributor connections between mainstream stores and regional and national organic suppliers. A broad-based public awareness campaign about organic food and agriculture was another important element in the UMOMP strategy. The organic production and marketing educational effort should help to enable future expansion of organic hectarage. However, serious national or regional strategies to encourage organic farming probably will need other elements as well. Such strategies will involve some fundamental issues about the future structure and nature of organic farming and food systems, e.g., whether organic agriculture can remain centered on small- and moderate-sized family farms that operate in a somewhat independent and entrepreneurial fashion. Whether organic agriculture can be a vehicle for encouraging food systems that are more regional in geographic scope is a related issue. Preserving an organic farming and food system that differs substantially from the presently evolving “industrial” system may necessitate a slower and more deliberate approach than was used in the UMOMP. However, that could involve some sacrifice in the rate of growth in organic supply and demand.

Corresponding author
Corresponding author is T.L. Dobbs (
Hide All
1.Dobbs T.L. 1998. Price premiums for organic crops. Choices 13(2):3941.
2.Dobbs T.L., Feuz D.M., and Shane R.C.. 1999. Expanding the Organic Food and Agriculture System in the U.S.'s Upper Midwest: Strategies and Lessons of a Pilot Project. Final Evaluation of the Upper Midwest Organic Marketing Project. Brookings, SD.
3.Greenberg L.S.Z., and Myers M.E. (eds.). 1998. Organic Production and Marketing Curriculum. Cooperative Development Services, Madison, WI; Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, East Troy, WI.
4.Klonsky K., and Tourte L.. 1998. Organic agricultural production in the United States: Debates and directions. Amer. J. Agric. Econ. 80:11191124.
5.Lohr L. 1998. Implications of organic certification for market structure and trade. Amer. J. Agric. Econ. 80:11251129.
6.Michelsen J. 1996. Organic farmers and conventional distribution systems: The recent expansion of the organic food market in Denmark. Amer. J. Alternative Agric. 11:1824.
7.Myers M.E. (ed.). 1998. Upper Midwest Organic Resource Directory. Cooperative Development Services, Midwest Organic Alliance, Madison, WI; Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, East Troy, WI.
8.New Hope Natural Media. 1997. Natural Foods Merchandiser 18(6). 16th Annual Market Overview Issue.
9.New Hope Natural Media. 1998. Natural Foods Merchandiser 19(6). 17th Annual Market Overview Issue.
10.Reicks M., Splett P., and Fishman A.. 1997. Shelf Labeling of Organic Foods: Effects on Customer Perceptions and Sales. Retail Food Industry Center Working Paper 97–03. University of Minnesota, St. Paul.
11.Richman N.J. 1999. Executive summary. The Natural Foods Market: A National Survey of Strategies for Growth. Policy Studies Report 12. Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture, Greenbelt, MD. p. 118.
12.Thompson G.D. 1998. Consumer demand for organic foods: What we know and what we need to know. Amer. J. Agric. Econ. 80:11131118.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Journal of Alternative Agriculture
  • ISSN: 0889-1893
  • EISSN: 1478-5498
  • URL: /core/journals/american-journal-of-alternative-agriculture
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 5 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 53 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 21st October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.