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Mo' Problems, Mo' Money

Posted 2/5/2013 9:28am by Tom & Linda Schwarz.

I just got done reading an article on foxnews.com about why organic food prices are higher than conventional food prices. Overall, the article is very informative and presents correct information. I would recommend it to any of you who are interested in learning more about what it takes to grow organic fruits, grains, livestock, and vegetables.

HERE is the link.


But before (or after) you read it, here are some of my comments/observations on why not everything in this article jives with what I know about organic (or even conventional [which is to say not organic]) agriculture. Please keep in mind that these are just addendums to the article based on how WE do things and do not necessarily mean that ALL organic farms are like us:

#1 states that organic farmers hire people to clean up polluted water and for remediation of pesticide contamination. I cannot speak to other regions of the country, but the water here in South Central Nebraska is not "polluted." It is higher than average in nitrates, but we do not filter or otherwise "fix" the water we put on our crops because we do not need to. Like I said, it could be different in other regions, but here we don't need to do this. As far as pesticide contamination goes, we generally do not have a problem with it. Once a sprayer came in on a windy day and sprayed the field across the road and it got on our popcorn. This was bad news, but we harvested the contaminated crop separately. It all worked out fine in the end, though, because the company who sprayed the field payed us for the damages without a problem. The worst part was we have had to wait 3 years before recertifying that area of our field for organic production.We can harvest it again as organic after June 24th of this year.

#3 mentions the use of sewage sludge in conventional production. I read that and thought, "that sounds disgusting," but honestly, I only know of one conventional farm in our area that uses sewage sludge, so it is pretty rare, and I doubt they would allow its use on food grade crops. Not that it makes the words "sewage sludge" sound any more appealing to anyone...

#5 If a farm produces both organic and conventional crops or if their organic crops are sent to a packaging facility that is also used for conventional crops, I can see how they would need to keep them separate. On our farm, we only grow organic. If for some reason we are unable to certify a certain crop1 we still don't use conventional pesticides or fertilizers to grow it, so we don't have to keep it separate anyway since there is no cross-contamination that would occur.

#6 discusses the inspection fee. For reference, the company we certify with, OneCert, charges between $1,000-$4,300 to certify. Last year we paid $2,400. This year, since we made more on our corn, we will pay $3,000. So the figures they give you are low-ball numbers. FYI.

#9 baffles me a little bit. Some of it is correct. Organic farms typically ARE smaller than conventional farms. But growth hormones are used in livestock, not on plants. Unless I am way off the mark and there is some sort of growth accelerant that I don't know about, organic crops grow at about the same speed as conventional ones. They reach maturity later in the year than conventional crops, but that is largely due to the fact that they are planted later in the spring. But even still, in some cases we plant our crops later in the spring and they reach maturity at roughly the same time our conventional neighbors' fields do. But, like I said, growth hormones ARE used in conventional LIVESTOCK production, so if that is what the author of the article meant, that is correct.

 

That is all! Like I said, overall the article is spot on and explains things very well. I would definitely recommend it. And if you have any questions about organic agriculture or the way we do things or even our reasons why, please contact me at becky.schwarz@hotmail.com and I'll get back to you. Thanks for reading!

-Becky Schwarz-

 

1 We sometimes buy plants that are grown conventionally because they are not available as an organic plant. This usually means we have to notify our certifier of the purchase and they let us know how long we have to raise the plant using organic methods before it can be certified organic. Example: Mom bought a conventional chocolate mint plant last summer. We re-potted and divided the plant and treated it as if it were one of our organic plants. We can now sell it as organic.

 

 

 

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