Organics sprout money for local companies

John Salmonson, president of Brant Monterey Co., looks over a production line for Sluggo Plus organic snail bait in Fresno.John Salmonson, president of Brant Monterey Co., looks over a production line for Sluggo Plus organic snail bait in Fresno.As popularity of organic produce grows, so do support businesses like organic nutrients, herbicide, fungicide and liquid fertilizer providers.

Organic chemical formulations are considered vital in getting the most out of organically certified farmland and the products that are grown.

The words organic and chemicals would not seem to jive, but it all depends on the chemical and its purity that makes it not only safe for the soil, but an improvement for many soils. That is in contrast to synthetic products that could be harmful to beneficial insects and bacteria.

Organic chemicals are naturally occurring, but must still be tested for contaminants.

And as with all farm chemicals, application of organic chemicals must be done strictly according to directions.

The key is to enhance organic production through natural means. Popularity of organic farming means demand for more organic product choices.

Even organic snail killer bait is becoming a strong seller. The key is producing bait that does not harm other animals.

The organic industry grew by 9.5 percent nationally in 2011, reaching $31.5 billion in sales, according to an Organic Trade Association survey.

Organic crops grown in California include berries, fruit, tree nuts, vegetables, field crops, greenhouse fruits and vegetables and nursery stock.

As organic cropland grows, farmers must maintain larger supplies of organic nutrients, herbicides and other chemicals that are effective, but safe for the environment. That means that top organic chemical suppliers must upgrade equipment and plan for larger industrial buildings.

Local producers of nutrients and soil amendments are ramping up for the new fruit, vegetable and nut season.

Brandt Monterey Co. in Fresno is stocking up and adding more liquid nutrient tanks. The nutrient and chemical company, which provides both organic and non-organic products, is in the process of expanding its organic operation.

“We are producing more organic products,” said John Salmonson, president of Brandt Monterey Company. “Organics are growing and there is a need. We’re growing at a steady pace.”

Popular products include nutrients and micronutrients, which include vitamins and minerals, copper fungicides and herbicides such as corn gluten meal or vinegar, clove oil and soap, and organic sulfur, which can be used as a source of plant nutrient or soil amendment.

Salmonson explained that a soil analysis is done prior to the purchase of nutrients and other chemicals. Through the analysis a buyer can determine how many pounds of each chemical will be needed.

In producing the products, chemical companies must provide traceability records just as farmers are required to have trace-back programs.

Brant Monterey Company currently has 90 employees. The factory operation is housed in three large buildings.

Salmonson is adding a new 98,000 square-foot building to help expand his organic operations.

At Bio-Ag Nutrient Solutions Inc. in Fresno, owner and organic farmer Greg Gaffney is content with his small operation of himself and a pest management expert. But Gaffney, who started in the organic nutrient business 15 years ago, has significantly increased his product volume.

He initially kept about 200 gallons on hand of each product. Today, he maintains a 9,000-10,000-gallon supply of each product in stock.

“The industry is growing,” Gaffney said. “I could do a lot more than I do now.”

Growth has not only come from organic farming needs, but also from conventional farmers.

“Most of my sales are to non-organic buyers,” Gaffney said.

The reason is that whether organic or conventional, farmers are looking out for the health of their soil, he said.

Gaffney pointed out that synthetic fungicides and other non-organic products can hurt soils. “Synthetics knock out beneficial bacteria,” he said. “There is a lot to be said about organisms in the soil.”

Products must also be gentle on worms, Gaffney said.

Bio-Ag Nutrient Solutions product line includes fish protein, a product called Soil Food that stimulates root growth and microbial activity and a nutrient-rich ocean kelp concentrate.

Along with operating his nutrient business, Gaffney grows organic stone fruit trees. He’s a member of California Certified Organic Farmers.