Should the NOSB Organic vote eliminate water-based growing methods?
Note: some language might offend some of you. Move on or get over it.
Hello to all farmers out there. As of yet, I have been reluctant to take an official stance on the organic topic. But, I keep getting asked, so here it is and now you may know why I felt as if my opinion didn’t need to contribute to the noise.
Why? I am fortunate to have friends who are strictly hydroponic, aquaponic, permaculturalists, certified organic, non-certified organic (can we say that still?), and none of these people have yelled at or punched one another yet. Nor do I believe they will. I also speak to and communicate with farmers on both sides of this bipartisan issue. They are all good people.
We spend most of our time on other issues mainly devoted to business strategy and marketing. That is the lane I operate in. I have never been one to give advice on picking a growing method, nor do I want to be. How anybody chooses to grow is their personal decision. If they want help on getting their farm’s story out to their buyers, count me in.
Finally, I don’t feel like I have enough background to know every detail I need to know. I also will say, even if I did I am not sure if I would trust any source at this point. I certainly can’t trust any part of the USDA with the amount of lobbying that goes on bu truly big agri-business. And, unfortunately, I also have a hard time taking any information from people so close to the fight. These people are all in. I’m not saying it’s wrong at all. It is just not detached enough for me to come to my conclusion. You know damn right we cannot trust any media (the irony that this is in a blog does not escape me) and we all know listening to the general public is a maddening endeavor.
This issue is complicated, to say the least. I do not expect my opinion (and that is all we have now as I read around the web) to matter in the same vein nobody’s argument has swayed my beliefs. I’m talking influencers I respect. I’m talking about people who had lived organic lives and fought for the first iterations of organic back when that rubber stamp from a board was first inked to paper. These people lead a charge that needed to happen, and I wholeheartedly respect those efforts. And I understand why it remains so close to their every breath. To grow organic is a source of pride, its great f0r the social, ecological, and economic impact of their ecosystem. This method is one of many.
Que the AA podium: My name is Nick Burton, and I grow both in soil and hydroponically. I am also not going to put out another piece debating water use percentage, what a chemical compound is or isn’t, the use or non-use of pesticides organically derived or not.
I will tell you this; I feed what I grow to my family and to the people in my community who I feed each week. I grow in the most sanitary conditions as possible, both of my commercial kitchens are “A” rated with zero deductions. My beneficial IPM, physical barriers, pest management, are all derived from the safest methods I can get, and I always ask for help when deciding how to prevent or control issues.
My NOSB/Organic vote conclusion:
My personal stance. Love me, hate me, picket my farm, send me death threats, send me a Christmas card-tomorrow I’m going to get up and go to work like any other day tomorrow. One of my favorite moments from NYC Agtech week was we were dividing up into group discussions, and I was told, by my good friend, that I was too cynical and he didn’t want to be in my group. It was one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.
In no particular order, my organic thoughts:
- I believe Big Ag/Big business runs not only our country but the global economy. Big business is going to control things whether we like it or not, vote on it or not, petition for it or not. How’s that for starting off with a tin foil hat.
- I believe our food system is so broken we will need every possible method to feed all of these people. And I believe we haven’t even scratched the surface of what is possible.
- I don’t currently give a shit if we are growing on Mars in the next ten years.
- I believe we cannot upcycle pallets, shipping container grow, or perpetual water wheel our way out of this mess.
- I know the majority of people say what they want but buy according to whats easiest. And so do you.
- Non of us got into agriculture to become millionaires. If some farms break out and do become successful by good practices and business smarts they may not be bad people.
- All farms are businesses whether they are run that way or not. It’s not for everyone. If agri-business isn’t for you, there is still need to feed your family and neighbors and its okay to stay/be small.
- Growing ethically, sanitary, the care of your land, soil, facility, livestock, equipment, employees, yourself, and community should be your first goal. If you operate as if the world is watching you will be in the right.
- Taking care of your clients is the second most important thing you need to do as a grower. If you take your properly produced farm goods to the people who are willing to purchase from you the farmer, you will get the feedback you Develop
- Develop your growing methods around your client. If I lived in Vermont I would certainly have to be certified organic. Here in Texas, for my business model, I am growing ingredients for my ready to eat meals. Convenience & taste trumps organic in my region. But I still grow ethically and safely.
- Don’t let distractions over situations you can’t control take you away from running your business. Yes, you can vote, send in letters, let your voice be heard. Do all of that. Hell, wright your congressman and if you have a platform tell the world. But do not ignore the day to day running of your farm. Your clients, employees, and crops/livestock. I am not belittling what is a huge economic and cultural issue for some of you. But I have fielded calls from people paralyzed by this vote who are far from even starting their farm.
My biggest concern over the NOSB/Organic debate.
“buy local…except that guy”
I get taking a stand against the NOSB as an organic soil grower. I get taking a stand as a hydro/aquaponic grower for the same right to use words blessed upon you from our illustrious leaders in D.C.
What I will never condone or understand is rallies against another farmer. Literal picket signs, marches, podiums, and speeches against one growing method over another. The good intent is there, but I cannot condone small farmers as an industry participating in infighting.
Frankly, I find it disgusting.
If it is big Ag that you take issue with, say big Ag. Say Monsanto, Kraft, Bo Pilgrim. When I see a sign against hydroponics I see a sign against me, a fellow small farmer. I would never do that to another farmer. We are here to build each other up. It is your client will be your client through the relationships you build, not by the walls you put up. Each of us is responsible for representing our profession.
I do not have the answers you are looking for. I do know hydroponic farmers and aquaponic farmers who deeply care about the same things as organic soil farmers care about. It is ok to try and solve problems differently. We have so many regional, climate, habitat, and client differences that there can never be a cookie cutter way of production.
I implore us to work together. We do have a tough road ahead. Too far to the left or right of any issue will never build a bridge.
Maybe I’m not so cynical after all.
If you want to read articles from both sides of the issue, here are some pieces by people I admire. The views may be opposing, but remember you have to make up your own mind here.
Eliot Coleman of Four Season Farm, Conor Crickmore of Neversink Farm, and Jean-Mrtin Fortier of Les Jardins de la Grelinette discuss the crossroads we face in the Organic movement- Do we allow dilution of our movement with hydroponics or do we keep true to our roots? Like And Share! More Below⬇ ⬇ Sign the petition at keepthesoilinorganic.orgLet the NOSB hear from you at https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=AMS_FRDOC_0001-1600 (Click on the blue "Comment Now" button in the upper right corner)→→→→Like and share this video with your friends and family!←←←←→ How our food is grown is important. The soil that it is grown in is important. Nutritional differences are real between different soils and certainly between hydro and soil. No one can say with any certainty what all those differences are, but every soil scientist I have spoken with agrees that the produce must be different nutritionally. We don't even know much of what we should be testing for. We are learning more every year. Hydroponics is untested as a way of producing nutritious food, with a short track record of under 5o years, compared to 300 million years in soil. Humans coevolved with the soil ecosystem, which is uniquely capable of providing plants, other animals, and humans with a truly balanced nutrition.→ A second reason to care is that the soil is our only hope of rebalancing the climate and cooling the planet. Not only through carbon sequestration, but also through building a soil carbon sponge capable of holding (and releasing) rainwater. Properly managed this enables the soil to support a living mantle for much longer in the year, cooling the atmosphere and restoring the water cycle.→ A third reason is that the USDA is seling off parts of the National Organic Program like it is a real estate developement. We have spent many years building the organic movment to provide a real alternative to the madness of Monsanto and ohters. Now they are destroying that. we shouldn't let them get away with it, and we certainly shouldn't quietly enable that fraud.From Eliot Coleman (shared at his request)Dear Organic Farmers,Those of us farming organically today did not invent the concept of organic agriculture. It is a gift from 100 years of development by wise people who farmed before us. We are the beneficiaries of the intuition, experimentation, and dedicated efforts of our predecessors who were concerned with the detrimental effects on food quality caused by industrial methods. They developed the art and science of organic farming because they understood that proper nourishment of human beings only results from proper nourishment of the soil. Organic farming is best defined by the benefits of growing crops on a biologically active fertile soil. Crop resistance to pests and diseases is an outcome of farming a soil that fully nourishes the crops.The importance of fertile soil as the cornerstone of organic farming is under threat. The USDA is allowing soil-less hydroponic vegetables to be sold as certified organic without saying a word about it. Just when today’s agronomists and nutritionists are finally becoming aware of the crucial influence of soil quality on food quality, the USDA is trying to unilaterally dismiss that connection by removing soil fertility from the National Organic Program definition of organic. The encouragement of “pseudo-organic” hydroponics is just the latest in a long line of USDA attempts to subvert the non-chemical promise that organic farming has always represented. Without soil, there is no organic farming. The USDA is defrauding customers who expect certified organic crops to be grown on optimally fertile soil as they always have been.I believe it is our duty as organic farmers to defend the integrity of what has been handed down to us by our forebears. The protection of that heritage is a responsibility that I don’t take lightly. The importance of optimal soil fertility as the bedrock of organic farming has to be transmitted accurately to future generations, so they can continue this effort.Since the USDA refuses to stop this hydroponic/organic fraud, I am asking all serious organic farmers to take effective action themselves. A large group of hard-core old-time organic farmers is staging a protest at the NOSB meeting in Jacksonville, FL at noon on October 31st. I am going to be there and I hope you will join us.For more information go to www.keepthesoilinorganic.org.With best wishes,Eliot Coleman Sign the petition at keepthesoilinorganic.orgLet the NOSB hear from you at https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=AMS_FRDOC_0001-1600 (Click on the blue "Comment Now" button in the upper right corner)→→→→Like and share this video with your friends and family!←←←←
Posted by In The Field Consultants on Friday, October 6, 2017