Garlic is cultivated throughout much of the world. The primary commercial source of dehydrated garlic is China (75% of world production), with Korea and India a distant second and third, followed by the United States. For many years, the higher quality of domestic garlic helped keep cultivation high in the U.S. (even after the lower-priced Chinese garlic entered the market), and domestic acreage peaked in 1999.
Over 80% of the United States' garlic production is in California, most notably around the city of Gilroy, which touts itself as the garlic capital of the U.S. This area was the source of our garlic for more than 25 years.
China's improved quality and large inventories, along with declining production in the United States (especially the spotty availability of certified organic garlic due to a soil blight), led us to search for a reliable source in China. Both our organic and non-organic garlic now comes from Chinese facilities that we have visited and inspected. Our organic garlic now comes from a Well Earth Sourcing Program supplier in China.
It took visits to nearly a dozen different organic garlic suppliers before we located a potential Well Earth Sourcing Program partner in China. We were impressed with this supplier's relationships with the farmers they worked with and with their commitment to organic principles and quality products. We worked with them for almost two years to make changes in their manufacturing process that improved the quality and consistency of their dehydrated garlic products. They have a relatively new plant that is well constructed, which helps them comply with modern GMPs (good manufacturing practices).
It's easy to discern the sense of pride and commitment in the faces of the people that farm the land in Huangzhuang Village, China. It's not only the pride of putting in a hard day's work, but of having that work is directed to a land they may call their own.
Building on a movement that started in the soybean-growing villages near the Chinese-Russian border, this village in the garlic-producing area of Jiangsu Province in China has developed a land-ownership system that was designed by the farmers in the area — not dictated by the local government. Each farm family now owns an equal amount of land and has the right to work that land as they see fit. In the past, farmers leased land from the government with a 30-year lease, and then could renew at the end of the lease — but never had ownership.
In Huangzhuan Village, the farmers are working with a local garlic dehydrator and have agreed to use their land for certified organic production. The farms are monitored by an independent certifier, Ecocert, to make sure they are abiding by all NOP rules and regulations — but the farmers also have a commitment to each other, as the individually owned farm plots border one another.
The organic cultivation of garlic not only provides a more sustainable ecosystem for the village, it also allows for higher incomes for the farmers and their families. As an official with the dehydration facility, Mr Hui Sang, noted, "The state, the people, and industry have come together in a mutually beneficial agreement here. The rivers are cleaner, the village has come together, and our community is thriving. Everyone is proud of the accomplishment." Huangzhuang Village has something to teach us all about working together for the common good.
© 2014 Frontier Co-op. All rights reserved.