5 Supportive Nonprofits Dedicated To Farming

From organizations dedicated to transforming regional supply chains, to groups breaking new ground in agricultural and scientific research, many nonprofits around the country are advocating for ethical farming practices while promoting workers and families within the industry. In no particular order, here are a few organizations taking care of the land and people producing the items consumers use every day.

Starting off the list at #1, Pennsylvania's Rodale Institute is dedicated to growing the organic movement through rigorous research, farmer training, and consumer education. Purported to be the birthplace of the movement, Rodale Institute claims to be the global leader in regenerative organic agriculture. The Institute's three-part mission is to assist growers in successfully transitioning to pesticide-free operations; research natural farming methods and related impacts; and educate consumers on relevant benefits.

Areas of research include developing organic solutions to pests, diseases, and weeds, mitigating and adapting to climate change, and growing nutrient-dense foods. Rodale Institute is also home to the Farming Systems Trial, the longest-running side-by-side comparison of organic versus conventional farming practices. Data collected has measured differences in soil health, crop yields, energy efficiency, water use and contamination, and nutrient density of crops.

Next at #2 is Humane Farm Animal Care. Located in the Metropolitan Washington, DC area, the organization is dedicated to improving the lives of farm animals in food production from birth through slaughter. Functions include expanding consumer awareness, as well as driving the demand for kinder and more responsible practices. The group's Certified Humane Raised and Handled label denotes items that come from operations that meet precise, objective standards for livestock treatment.

The certification can cover the raising or packing of beef cattle, dairy cows, goats, laying hens, poultry, turkeys, lamb, pigs, bison, veal calves, and deer. Requirements include that animals are never confined to cages or crates, are given quality non-GMO feed, and that workers comply with food safety and environmental regulations. HFAC supports producers by offering credibility through inspection, media coverage, and the promotion of humane society proponents.

Coming in at #3, Farm to Institution New England is a six-state network of public and private entities collaborating to improve the food system. It does this by increasing the amount of quality, local ingredients offered in the region's schools, hospitals, colleges, and other institutions. The organization supports a self-reliant supply chain by proposing sustainable practices in farming and fishing.

FINE provides a forum to connect and share ideas, models, resources, and support. The organization also runs several programs that address specific issues within food-related industries. Farm & Sea to Campus, for example, connects faculty, students, advocates, and businesses to change purchasing patterns and foster healthy eating. Meanwhile, the New England Local Food Processors encourages facilities to become more efficient in processing local produce and meat by improving equipment, plant design, and safety.

Entering the list at #4 is Farmers' Legal Action Group. The St. Paul, Minnesota law center is dedicated to providing legal services and support to family farmers and surrounding communities in order to protect their properties from foreclosure. Established in 1986, the firm's first case successfully challenged illegal procedures that froze workers' incomes and forced them off the land. Throughout the group's history, the US Congress has called on the team to provide testimony on federal issues relating to agricultural credit and civil rights.

The firm also publishes a series entitled Farmers' Guides to Disaster Assistance, which describes the rules for programs like the Emergency Conservation Program and Emergency Assistance for Livestock. Other topics covered by FLAG include conservation, food safety, biotechnology, taxes, and legal issues pertaining to marketing.

Lastly, at #5, the California nonprofit Fibershed develops regional and regenerative fiber production systems on behalf of independent producers. By expanding opportunities to implement emission-reducing carbon farming, forming foundations to rebuild regional manufacturing, and educating end-users about farms and ranches, the organization promotes responsible resource and waste management, as well as sustainable textile manufacturing systems.

Fibershed's goal is to create an industry that uses renewable energy-powered mills in close proximity to the farms where fibers are grown. Through a variety of soil carbon enhancing practices, the group advocates for the production of "climate beneficial" clothing. The organization's Fibershed Learning Center, located at Black Mountain Ranch in Point Reyes Station, California, hosts workshops and events that connect the community with local, sustainable fibers and dyes.