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How the Explosive Interest in Organic Gardening Could Help Change the System

(Photo courtesy of StartOrganic)

Whether we realize it or not, history is repeating itself.

While the term may be foreign to most people, victory gardens, or food gardens for defense, exploded in popularity during World War I and World War II. At the time, governments encouraged people to grow their own fruits, vegetables and herbs at home, not only as a way to supplement their food rations but also to boost morale.

This time around, there has been no specific mandate from the White House or the USDA for citizens to grow their own victory gardens due to Covid-19. However, people are rushing to do so anyway, out of fear that the food supply may suffer serious disruptions or as a result of ample time at home.

Needless to say, businesses involved in this sector are experiencing unprecedented demand for their products and services.

“The order volume is something that we have never seen before,” said Andrea Tursini, Director of Sales and Marketing at High Mowing Organic Seeds. “On March 14th, our orders started to climb dramatically. First, it was a 100% increase day-over-day. Then, it was a 200-300% increase. Shipping is now a 7-10 day turnaround time, whereas before we could normally do it on the same day. Our website is not optimized for this level of traffic, and we can’t make upgrades to the site without risking it going down.”

Buying organic seeds is one thing, but knowing what to do with them is something completely different. And people are asking plenty of questions.

StartOrganic, a company that provides onsite organic gardening services and classes to companies such as LinkedIn, PayPal, Apple and Intuit, is witnessing this first hand.

“We used to to get one Slack message per week, but now we are getting 30. When we are posting on social media, our engagement is way up. My friends have known what I have been doing for the last ten years, and all of sudden, they want to know how to start an organic garden. There is a real urgency to understand how food is produced,” said Troy Smothermon, Co-Founder of StartOrganic.

Given that a majority of the employees of StartOrganic’s clients are now working from home, its business has changed dramatically as well. It is now doing virtual sessions via Zoom, answering questions and providing guidance.

Even though the company never anticipated a pandemic would soon engulf the country, StartOrganic made a smart decision in 2019 to start developing an online organic gardening course, which launched just last week.

“Our goal is to teach as many people as possible how to grow their own food, and doing it one person at a time was just not scalable. Plus, we were getting asked the same questions over and over again,” said Troy Smothermon.


Covid-19 has changed everything in the world, including our relationship with food.

And with the interest in home gardening greater than it has been in a long time, we can only hope that this results in a much stronger and more politically engaged aversion to genetic engineering, gene editing and toxic chemicals.

Because food — in its purest form — plays a critical role in keeping our bodies healthy, which is something more important than ever.

For anyone interested in StartOrganic’s online gardening course, the company is offering it for $99 to the first 25 people who sign up by midnight on April 5th. Use the code INSIDER at checkout. Organic Insider is not receiving any commission or affiliate fee on this promotion.

With gratitude,

Max Goldberg, Founder

Behind the Rebrand with Suja Organic

Behind the Rebrand with Suja Organic


3 Questions with Greg Rose, Chief Marketing Officer at Suja Organic

What were you hoping to accomplish with the rebrand?
Our primary goals were (1) to reflect the care we put into the product with a clean and premium look, and (2) to make it easier for our consumers to shop across flavors and quickly identify their favorite.

This design update was more of an evolution, not a revolution, and we didn’t want to engage any differently with our consumers today beyond making it easier to shop.

Can you discuss the key visual and verbal elements?
First, we updated our logo to ensure Suja Organic is the consistent logo lock-up across all products, as everything we make is organic. Then, each line has a specific focus.

For example, in our Cold Pressed Juice line, we highlighted the flavor name and top 4-5 ingredients front and center in the “window” element to draw their eye there first, and then included any additional ingredients below. Breaking up the list this way will help consumers more easily navigate the flavor blends.

For our Shots line and new Elevated Nutrients juice line, we focused the central element more on the function and then included a few ingredients for flavor cues.

What were the key challenges that you faced along the way?
Our biggest challenge came a few months in where we went into research with two potential directions that took a bigger departure from where we are today, and candidly, they both fell flat and weren’t achieving our goals. So, we pivoted, and our branding agency Moxie Sozo pretty quickly developed the new design.

The research response from this new direction was really positive. It’s tough to hear the feedback at times, and it’s impossible to please everyone, but we were in alignment on the front-end that the voice that matters most is the consumer, particularly fans of Suja. This helped guide us to an end-result we’re excited to get into the marketplace!

This Week's News Items

Weekly News Summaries

First Course

With Strikes and a ‘Sick Out,’ Some Grocery and Delivery Workers Take Defiant Stance

By Melissa Repko, Annie Palmer

Some retailers have temporarily increased wages or offered bonuses, but Whole Foods, Instacart and Amazon workers have planned walkouts this week to demand safer working conditions.

Food Dive

Report: CPG Sales Could Rise as Much as 30% from March to May

By Lillianna Byington

Credit Suisse is predicting that U.S. packaged food companies' retail sales will grow by an average of 15% to 30% from March to May 2020.

Supermarket News

Kroger pilots Pickup-Only Store in Cincinnati Area

By Russell Redman 1

The test comes as coronavirus-concerned customers seek options to in-store grocery shopping.

Food Navigator

Emerging Brands Go Direct-to-Consumer as Retailers Pause Demos and Resets Amid Coronavirus

By Elizabeth Crawford

Still feeling the sting of Expo West being canceled, many natural and organic brands have no choice but to emphasize direct-to-consumer strategies.

Second Course
The Guardian

Revealed: Monsanto predicted Crop System Would Damage U.S. Farms

By Carey Gillam

Internal documents describe how to profit from farmer losses and the desire to oppose some independent testing.

PR Newswire

GrubMarket acquires Boston Organics

GrubMarket has acquired Boston Organics, an online farm-to-table grocery delivery service in Massachusetts.

Organic Consumers Association

OCA sues Happy Egg Co. Over ‘Pasture-Raised’ Claims

The Organic Consumers Association has sued Happy Egg Co. for false, deceptive and misleading advertising claims related to the use of the term “pasture-raised.”

Food Navigator

Brands Selling on Amazon must Rethink Advertising to Navigate Out-of-Stocks, Delayed Shipping

By Elizabeth Crawford

Hard-hit e-commerce players saw a slight reprieve in orders last week, but an expected resurgence in sales in the coming weeks will require brands to rethink their online strategy once again.

Third Course
The Washington Post

Joel Salatin: ‘I want coronavirus!’

By Tim Carman

Famous farmer and activist Joel Salatin gets blowback for declaring that he wants Covid-19.


Chinese Organic Food Distributor sets Terms for U.S. IPO

Loha, an organic food distributor in China, hopes to raise $26M in its IPO on the Nasdaq.

New Food Magazine

‘WWOOFing’ during Covid-19: A Risk Some U.S. Farmers Won’t Take

By Tyler A. McNeil

The World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) program connects volunteers to work alongside farmers across the world, but Covid-19 social distancing and isolation have presented new challenges.

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This Week's Quick Hits

Quick Hits

* Beyond Pesticides and OrganicEye preview next month’s virtual National Organic Standards Board meeting.

* Celebrating 50 years of Minnesota’s unique grocery activism and co-op history.

* The Maine farmer saving the world’s rarest heirloom seeds.

* Lacey Gautier, Group Show Director for Natural Products Expo, gives an update about hotel and vendor partners of Expo West.

* Meanwhile, the Specialty Food Association’s Phil Kafarakis gives his own update about this summer’s Fancy Food Show.

* Congrats to my good friend Michael Joseph, the founder of Green Chef, who just launched his newest business — Scratch Kitchen in Boulder, CO.

* New dates have been announced for Organic Food Iberia and Eco Living Iberia.

* With restaurants closed, Arizona’s organic farmers are in peril.

* Luxury resorts that grow their own food.

* These Millennial farmers bought an old school bus for $15,000, transformed it into their tiny home, and now spend their days driving around the country helping local organic farmers.

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