The All Things Organic Conference will be hosted by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) on September 17-18 in Baltimore and will help provide critical information on the future of organic. Michael Berger, founding partner and vice president of supply chain at Elevation Burger and a Food Tank board member, will be honored with the OTA Rising Star Award at the event.

The OTA, a membership-based organization of organic food companies, is working to bust myths about organic food. “Despite organic sales and accessibility at all-time highs, consumer confusion about organic benefits remains significant,” says Laura Batcha, CEO of OTA. “Consumers need to know the facts about organic so they can make the smartest choices for themselves and their families.” 

Worldwide, organic food sales grew 170 percent to US$63 billion from 2002 to 2011. In the United States alone, eaters purchased $35.9 billion of organic food in 2014, representing 4 percent of total food sales in the U.S., according to the Organic Trade Association (OTA). And the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that more than 3,000 farms across the nation are transitioning to organic production models.

But many eaters still don’t know what the organic label means. According to a 2014 study published in the International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, 17 percent of American and Canadian consumers think organic food is also locally grown, while another 23 percent believe locally grown food is automatically organic.

Farmers around the world are not only responding to consumer demand for more organic food, but also making the best decisions for their businesses. A recent meta-analysis of 44 scientific studies by researchers from the Centre for Research on Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development shows that organic farming is not only environmentally sustainable, but also financially competitive when compared to conventional farming practices. The scientists found that despite the enormous growth in sales, organic agriculture currently occupies only 1 percent of global cropland, so there is plenty of room for further expansion of organic production. 

But significant challenges and consumer confusion must be overcome in order for organic to increase significantly and benefit all eaters. Many entrepreneurs, farmers, researchers, and agricultural scientists are working around the globe to protect the integrity of organic labels and ensure continued growth within the sector.