At recent organic farmer conferences producers and advocates have listened to
perfectly well-intentioned experts decrying international trade and promoting
simpler community-oriented ways of farming. These are good ideas.
Nevertheless, those speakers don’t seem to recognize that they are
addressing farmers for whom the agricultural infrastructure in Nebraska,
Idaho and Michigan is not primed for salad mix and hand-pressed apple cider.
Add all the complicated issues concerning debt-management, inter-familial
challenges ( " Dad says we own corn ground, so we plant corn."), crop
insurance, re-tooling and re-educating themselves and their equipment.
Remember what Pleasant Porter said: All natures grow from within. As growers
in transition approach future production schemes, they need to identify what
their natural affinity and inclination is. If the dream is going to work it
should be inherent.
Keeping the Cash in an Affinity Pipeline
On the way north to the annual meeting of the Organic Growers and Buyers
Association meeting in Minnesota I stopped by Albert Lea Seed House located
in the town of the same name. Albert Lea Seed is one of those small,
family-owned and run, seed and input vendors that serves the local community,
and that community is both organic and conventional farmers. In times past,
it was easier to serve both types of farmers, but with the onset of the GMO
Age, the decision-making process has become complicated. An OCIA-certified
handler and processor, Albert Lea Seed voices the shared concerns of the
organic community regarding contamination in organic handling systems, and
the Erhardt family, owners of Albert Lea Seed House, are strongly considering
devoting their business to purely non-GMO hybrids and cover crop seeds for
the organic and sustainable market. Mac Erhardt says it isn’t just concerns
over contamination, but also because the GMO seed industry requires much more
paperwork, owing to novel contractual agreements and licensing documentation.
But segregating their business without a bottom-line reason to do so might be
financial suicide. Give the Erhardt’s a call at 1-800-352-5247 if you’d like
to give them another reason to be GMO-free.
Right next door to Albert Lea Seed is a natural foods market, Wintergreen
Natural Foods, whose location makes it convenient to organic farmers and
hungry journalists who try to steer clear of fried chunk food.(Did you know
that a significant majority of all French fries are made with GMO potatoes?)
Wintergreen Natural Foods is another candidate for selective patronage. We
need to put every dollar into an organic pipeline that flows back to your own
In 1998-99, external and internal influences brought organic field crops
growers together to discuss forming a cooperative so at least they wouldn’t
bid against their own prices unnecessarily, and now some of those growers
will be taking one next step by electing leadership from within the ranks.
John Bobbe, from the Institute for Rural America and Gene Paul, of the
National Farmers Organization have offered developmental assistance, but now
the ball is in the producers’ court. If nothing happens, I suppose all one
can say was that things weren’t broken enough to fix them. Anyone interested
in reading more about the Field Crops Organizing Committee can refer to
<http://www.iquest.net/ofma>. One can also find information on that website
about fresh produce growers trying to conceive of a communications system
that will help in marketing.
In Texas, certified organic field crops producers and livestock producers
are on the verge of putting their mutual needs and products together in San
Angelo. The point-man there is Ralph Hoelscher (915-468-2592). Arrowhead
Mills in Hereford is ready to ship truckloads of organic clean-out to them,
and area growers plan on expanding the number of varieties of crops grown,
This will lead to a more varied and sustainable crops in the rotation which
can supply livestock producers who will market under the new organic meat
A Green "Furrow"
Greg Gunthorp, Indiana pastured-pork producer and member of the National
Small Farms Commission notes some good in-depth articles on organic and
sustainable agriculture in the John Deere Company’s monthly magazine, The
Furrow. If the Green machine wants to sell a broader equipment line to an
improving sector in agriculture, organic farmers are good target consumers.
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