> Sorry, but I just had to jump in here.
> Once you get past your first two years as an organic producer(not that I
> have yet so I am not an authority on the subject), the way I understand it
> is most if not ALL of your inputs come from your farm. I have a good friend
> who I have watched up and this is what I understand to be true.
> There is two things I noticed when I went to the Organic Conference last
> year,(my first). One: they were all very content and at peace with
> themselves and Two: No one was ever going back no matter what the prices
> would go to. They deffinately were not in it for the money even if they
> started out that way.
> So I have a challenge for you, start to change the way you look at
> things. Yes it will be be rough the first two years but after that ???? Keep
> your eye on the light at the end of the tunnel and be at peace.
> As I have been told Christmas still comes at the same time every year. Might
> be a few less gifts under the tree but that's not what its all about anyway.
I think in much the same way, with some disagreement. Let me say first, that I'm
academic/extension/research in practice, and I'm a student (not for much longer,
I hope), so my experience with organic production is limited to the "Ivory
Tower" realm of land-grant universities. I'm in the process of writing a
journal article about a grower field study we did, where we examined organic and
conventional production systems (3 each) and applied composts to three plots,
and synthetic fertilizers to three plots on each farm, and let the growers
handle the day to day activities of planting, weeding, pest control (probably
Appl. Soil Ecol.). While seed may (or may not) be purchased, none of the
growers bought organic amendments. Three growers transported composted cotton
gin trash from a nearby gin (the gin was glad to be rid of it!), one grower
composted cattle manure from her farm, one received municipal yardwaste compost,
and the last grower composted yard waste and leaf matter on site (and may have
been producing enough to sell on the side!). Labor was much more intense!
weeding by hand or hoe, or rototiller (these were 25'*25' plots), some mulched
the plots (mulch had to be purchased or grown, then applied). Harvest was by
hand. Even with all this work, (and as many of you know it is indeed hard work)
I always saw smiling faces when I visited the fields (theirs/mine). I've been
to (and presented at) Organic Grower Field Days, and the same thing happens.
Lots of questions from interested parties. The same presentations in the same
fields yield different results when the audience is a group of extension agents
trying to get recert. points.
Organic farming is definitely a different mindset. I think the big problem is
"the Jump:" The decision to become organic in the first place. It's a scary
prospect, to go from a known ("My daddy has grown corn, soybeans, and tomatoes
on these fields since I can remember. . .") to a new area where the grower must
learn a different way to prevent weeds, or stop plant disease. Where (s)he must
pick the potato beetles off the tomato leaves, and spray Bt-san diego (M-Trak),
rather than Thiodan, or Penncap. And it is a big gamble to many growers. .
.will I make it to three years so I can get certification? . . Can I sell my
produce/grain to anyone without certification? What will Farmer John down the
road think of me, crazy for doing this, or smart for doing this?
I think several advantages exist in organic farming. (by the way I'm kinda using
this forum as a sounding board for part of my discussion, so comments,
questions, etc are welcome) First, when properly applied, organic amendments
yield as well as conventional fertilizers in the first year. We have two
different studies on eight different fields in three states in the Southeastern
United States, and almost all plots containing organic amendments yielded as
well the first year as comparable plots in the same field with commercial
fertilizers. Soilborne plant disease (when present) is lower in soils
containing organic amendments. Organically produced commodities "can be" sold
for a premium (especially at farmers markets, where there is only a small middle
man). Even Dennis Avery (and I'm kind of turning his table on him so to speak)
in his book "Saving the planet with plastics and pesticides" concedes that
organic produce is sold for 0% to 400% more at the market, so growers of organic
produce must receive more money per volume produced (Saving the planet. . .,
Another concern in organically produced food is the possibility of contamination
with enteric bacteria. Enteric bacteria (those bacteria found in the intestines
of vertebrates) are the leading cause of food poisoning in the United States
(78,000,000 estimated cases each year, Emerging Infectious Diseases Vol 5: On
line at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/vol5no5/mead.html ). Avery in a press
release to the Wall Street Journal on December 8, 1998, stated that organic and
natural foods were eight times more likely to cause food poisonings, according
to the CDC. The CDC, however, never made such a study or claim. In fact, most
food-related illnesses (caused by Campylobacter jejuni, E. coli O157:H7,
Listeria spp., and Salmonella spp.) came from contaminated and undercooked
meats, with relatively few (0.2%) caused by contaminated sprouts (see above, and
Report to congress, foodnet: an active surveillance system for bacterial
foodborne disease in the US, April 1998. Also online:
In our study, we observed high numbers of enteric bacteria in soils with organic
amendments at planting, but numbers were higher at harvest in soils with
synthetic fertilizers than at planting, while numbers in soils with organic
amendment dropped over time. Research has shown that Escherichia coli that was
released in water was killed in 10 days, and those released to soil was reduced
by 8 orders of magnitude in 60 days (that's 1,000,000,000 per ml to 10 CFU's per
ml). This study was conducted with a tracer organism where the DNA banding
patterns were known, and were unique, therefore only those organisms released
were observed. This makes perfect sense, since E. coli, Salmonella spp., and
other enteric bacteria are adapted to an environment with a constant nutrient
supply and temperature. The soil has neither a constant nutirent supply and is
quite oligotrophic, and temperatures are variable and well below the optimum 37
degrees C. Other enteric bacteria are better adapted to a soil environment, and
would out likely compete pathogenic microorganisms, especially given the time
between soil amendment and harvest.
Actually, that's the first time i've written the last two paragraphs down.
Sorry for boring some of y'all (in fact, those that were bored probably didn't
get far enough to read this apology.) Any comments or suggestions will be
welcome . . . Russ
-- Russ Bulluck Ph.D. Candidate Department of Plant Pathology North Carolina State University PO Box 7616 Raleigh, NC 27695-7616
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The soil population is so complex that it manifestly cannot be dealt with as a whole with any detail by any one person, and at the same time it plays so important a part in the soil economy that it must be studied. --Sir E. John Russell The Micro-organisms of the Soil, 1923 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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