BRATTLEBORO, VT. — The organic industry grew at a rate of nearly 8% in 2010 to go over $28.6 billion, according to the “2011 Organic Industry Survey” released April 21 by the Organic Trade Association.

“While total U.S. food sales grew by less than 1% in 2010, the organic food industry grew by 7.7%,” said Christine Bushway, chief executive officer and executive director of the Brattleboro-based O.T.A. “Consumers continue to vote with their dollars in favor of the organic choice. These results illustrate the positive contribution organic agriculture and trade make to our economy, and particularly to rural livelihoods.”

The increase in 2010 follows growth of 17.1% in 2008 and 5.3% in 2009.

Sales of organic fruits and vegetables, which represent nearly 40% of total organic food value, grew 12% from 2009 to 2010 to reach nearly $10.6 billion. Organic product makes up nearly 12% of all U.S. fruit and vegetable sales. Organic dairy sales rose 9% in 2010 to reach $3.9 billion, which accounted for nearly 6% of the total U.S. market for dairy products.

In the non-food sector in 2010, organic supplement sales grew 7.4% to reach $681 million, organic fiber (linen and clothing) sales rose 16% to $605 million; and personal care product sales rose 6.6% to $490 million.

The organic industry also appears to be hiring, as 40% of the companies surveyed reported positive full-time economic growth in 2010. For 2011, 46% of responding companies said they anticipate an increase in employment over 2010 levels. About 50% expect employment to remain even, and 5% foresee a decline in employment.