Barbara Mandrell sings of being country when country wasn’t cool.

Wine grape grower Phil LaRocca of Forest Ranch, Calif., almond producer Chris Baugher of Orland, Calif., and the rice growing Lundberg family of Richvale, Calif., were organic farmers long before they knew they were trendy.

Between the three, they have more than 100 years of experience in farming organically. That does not mean they leave production to happenstance. They manage the environments of their vineyards, orchards and fields differently than most. They use products and practices organically approved, from beneficial insects to organically sanctioned pesticides like Bt. They use compost and cover crops for crop nutrients and beneficial insect habitat.

While they shun so-called conventional farming, they don’t scorn it. They simply choose to do it differently than the majority.

“Farming is hard” anyway it’s done, conventionally or organically, said Baugher, one of three commercial farmers on a producer panel at an organic production conference in Chico, Calif.

Sponsored by the Organic Fertilizer Association of California (OFAC) and the California Association of Pest Control Advisers (CAPCA), more than 100 attended the all-day session in the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. conference theater.

Steve Beckley is the executive director of OFAC. He is former president of both the Western Plant Health Association (WPHA) and the California Fertilizer Association. He helped form WPHA from a merger of CFA and the Western Agricultural Chemical Association (WACA).

He has spearheaded workshops like the one in Chico to address the agronomic challenges facing organic agriculture. Small trade shows for key organic farming suppliers are set up at these workshops.

Organic food production represents just 5 percent of total agricultural production. However, since the 1990s it has increased at a rate estimated as high as 20 percent per year. Many large farming operations have organic segments to meet with a niche, yet potentially lucrative consumer market.

Baugher farms and markets organic almonds from his 350 acres of Sacramento Valley orchards. He is by far the largest organic grower and marketer in California. Besides what he produces, he also buys from about 15 other certified organic producers. “I buy two-thirds of what we sell from other growers,” he noted. This year he expects to market 3 million pounds of organic almonds, half of California’s total organic almond output. He also operates his own huller/sheller.

He ships worldwide and is the only California almond grower certified organic by Switzerland. He was also the first producer to ship organic almonds into South Korea.

He started in 1985. He farmed conventionally with his father for many years, but longed to farm organically.

“I started farming organically because I did not have any money to farm the 120 acres any other way when I started,” he laughed.