J.I. Rodale, the founder of Rodale, Inc., and advocate for sustainable farming, is generally considered the historical father of organic farming in the US. He started his Pennsylvania experimental farm in the 1940s to test organic gardening methods. But, when organic farming went mainstream in the 1970s and standards were needed to regulate and determine what that meant, it was California that helped lead the way.
California Certified Organic Farmers was formed in 1973 and run out of a Santa Cruz home. Their organic standards -- which consisted of just 13 rules in the first newsletter, such as a lack of using pesticides -- were some of the first standards to establish what constituted organic farming in the fledgling movement. Those rules, and the state laws that California adopted later in the 1990s, were the groundwork for USDA’s eventual national organic program, which are far more detailed and complex. California is now home to just over 2,800 certified organic farms, according to the Organic Farming Research Foundation -- the most farms, acres, and sales of any state in the country.