The Organic Agriculture Industry in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has a large agriculture industry, and the organic agriculture industry in particular has far outpaced the national average.

In 2023, ESI was hired by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to evaluate the impact of the organic agriculture industry in Pennsylvania. This included economic and fiscal impact, a supply chain, gap, and SWOT analyses, as well as recommendations for the Commonwealth to ensure continued growth of the industry.

ESI found that over 1,200 certified organic farms created over $1 billion in organic sales in 2021. In Pennsylvania, the industry supported 7,100 jobs and created a total economic impact of $2.2 billion in 2021. Since 2011, the number of organic farms in Pennsylvania has grown 167% (compared to 105% nationwide) and total organic product sales in Pennsylvania have grown 789% (compared to 217% nationwide).

Some key areas for growth in the industry revolve around labeling, certification, and consumer education. While organic products overall have increased in market share, addressing these issues by making processes more streamlined and less expensive can lower the barriers to entry and further grow the industry. Additionally, ensuring that this growth is inclusive means addressing racial disparities that exist due to historic inequality for non-white farmers.

In addition to current impacts and historical trends, ESI looked to the future of the industry, and found that climate change mitigation, equitable economic development, and agricultural research and technological innovation would be critical to the continued success of the industry.

Lastly, ESI provided policy recommendations to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. These included consumer education, minority outreach and supporting farmers from disadvantaged communities, increasing CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), being more inclusive of Plain Sect (non-organic) farmers, and expanding organic education at state colleges and universities.

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