Lancaster County farmers eligible for free organic transition program - TeamAg Inc
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Lancaster County farmers eligible for free organic transition program

Lancaster County farmers eligible for free organic transition program

May 16, 2024 Lancaster, PA

Elizabeth Deornellas | Staff Writer | LNP Lancaster Online

Lancaster County farmers interested in going organic can gain free technical expertise and business advice from the agricultural consultancy TeamAg Inc. as it seeks to expand local participation in a program designed to ease the transition into a growing market.

TeamAg’s organic transition program currently supports four Lancaster County farms, covering a total of 220 acres, and the consultancy aims to recruit another 19 farms statewide with the remainder of its $1 million grant.


TeamAg’s Sue Ellen Johnson (holding board) speaks with farmers about their pasture and soil health

at a Dairy Grazing Pasture Walk sponsored by PASA Sustainable Agriculture on May 7, 2024 in Bird-in-Hand


The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture awarded the grant in January 2023, and this is the first spring that the money has supported plantings. The three-year program can support 30 farms total, and only 11 have been enrolled statewide so far.

Current Lancaster County organic transition program participants, including Plain Sect farmers, produce hay, grains and vegetables while raising dairy cows and poultry.

TeamAg sees opportunity for many more producers to join the organic market. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Organic Integrity Database lists 314 certified organic producers in Lancaster County, and those numbers have been increasing statewide.

“The growth of organic in Pennsylvania is just exponential,” said Peggy Fogarty, an agricultural business consultant for TeamAg.

Organic product sales in Pennsylvania increased 789% between 2011 and 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Organic Survey. In that period, the state’s number of organic farms grew from 446 to 1,125.

Fogarty went through her own transition to organic back in 1999, starting with 7 acres of her Ephrata-area farm.

“There’s a lot of bumps along the way,” Fogarty said, “and if you don’t have anybody to come and guide that process you can make a lot of mistakes.”

Connecting with organic experts

The Ephrata Borough-based TeamAg, founded in 2002, is a private company that provides technical expertise to farmers to improve environmental and economic performance.

TeamAg’s organic transition program consists of three parts: a soil management plan, help with certification paperwork and financial advice.

“Nothing like this existed before to provide this kind of consultation,” Fogarty said.

When TeamAg’s organic transition consultants visit a farm, they assess the land to check for best practices such as stream fencing and waterside plantings that minimize erosion.

Farmers transitioning to organic must review all the materials they use, from seeds to fertilizers to fence posts and health care products for livestock. Finding new products can be one of the most difficult steps, TeamAg organic specialist Leslie Zuck said.

Word of mouth within farm communities is essential to helping farmers find the organic products they need, and Lancaster County has a great network, Zuck said.

TeamAg staff set up record keeping systems and perform mock inspections to make sure farmers are prepared for the annual inspections they will face as organic producers.


Leslie Zuck conducts a mock audit on a diary farm in Oxford on March 21, 2024.


There is no obligation to take further action after receiving a consultation from TeamAg, Zuck emphasized.

“I wish people would just contact us before they do anything – as soon as possible – even if they’re just thinking about it,” Zuck said.

For more information, interested farmers can contact TeamAg at or call 717-445-0068.

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