Hello to all...
"Rubbing shoulders with mainstream agricultural research people, I never see
anybody huff and grump or dismiss "organic" agriculture en toto. Most
people in the research establishment are too focused on the biology at hand,
and the social dynamics of their peer group, to pay much attention to
elaborations of folk-culture"
Dale is either being disingenuous or has isolated himself amongst an
unusually progressive agricultural research community. While it is
certainly politically correct to be "open minded" about organic agriculture
these days, my experience is that there are still many individuals in
agricultural research and extension that are woefully uninformed about the
existence of knowledge intensive science based approaches to organic
A few weeks ago I was in PA speaking at a conservation tillage meeting...
an extension agent involved with organizing the meeting commented to me
that he had recently been getting calls from individuals interested in
finding out about current research on organic farming methods. He confided
that he had had an epiphany while pondering how to best deal with these
He enthusiastically shared with me that the reason he wasn't aware of
current research about organic agriculture, was that organic farming was a
non-science based system of farming developed prior to the adoption of
science based agricultural practices... and that current agricultural
scientists would have no reason to investigate management practices like
organic methods that are not science based.
I paused for a second to collect my thoughts and then proceeded to
tactfully tell him about an 18 year old randomized block design "farming
systems trial" in eastern PA with 2 different organic management systems.
He seemed genuinely amazed to hear about articles in peer reviewed journals
such as Agronomy Journal, Soil Science Society of America Journal, Nature
and American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, that documented both
agronomic and ecological benefits associated with these 2 organic
management systems at the Rodale Institute.
I concur with Bart and Dale that organic agriculture is far from a
homogeneous entity... There are probably as many "organic" farmers that are
woefully uninformed about knowledge intensive science based approaches to
organic agriculture as there uninformed agricultural researcher and
extension folks... however, the question we should all be pondering is not
how many organic farmers are bad farmers but why the innovative farming
systems developed by the best organic farmers work so well...
On a different note, if any of you farm in south central IL (within 100
miles of Alton, IL) or know of any such farmers in this area please drop me
a line. I am trying to line up field trips for an Ecology of Agriculture
class I am teaching this spring (early April - late May) at Principia
Elsah, Illinois 62028
(618) 374 - 5289
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