Based on a comprehensive study of the California organic sector, this article responds to the conventionalization debate on organic farming that surfaced after the publication of Buck et al. in 1997 in this journal. First, it addresses the place of California within the international organic sector, justifying its importance as a case study. As an empirical point, it documents the form and extent of agribusiness involvement in California's organic sector and provides place-specific explanations as to how it articulated with the previously existing organic sector. It also considers how agribusiness has influenced organic production, in rule-setting, inter-sectoral dynamics, and agronomic practices. The argument is that agribusiness involvement does more than create a soft path of sustainability - or ‘organic lite’; the conditions set by processes of agro-industrialization undermine the ability of even the most committed producers to practice a truly alternative form of organic farming. This trajectory is not inevitable, however, and largely turns on the sort of state support given to organic farming.