home > scientific farming > organic farming > fact and fancy
Organic? Fact and Fancy
More to "Organic" than
Meets the Eye
Good stewardship of the land and resources, responsibility to farm workers and commitment to consumer are not the exclusive provenance of organic farmers. I mange Alyson's Apple Orchard in Walpole, N.H. My background includes a college degree in ecology, teaching for the Audubon Society and work in organic crop and seed research.
Response to a Customer
Generally speaking, when people are looking for organic produce they are seeking officially certified products that meet government labeling
regulations. There are a number of practices allowed or required in certified organic farming that negatively impact the environment and food
safety much more than our methods.
Do we Spray? Are We Organic?
We were really keen to be organic, to the extent that we tried to control weeds by hoeing and did no spraying at all. We spent many an hour working up the rows squashing the caterpillars that were eating our trees, between finger and thumb. It took us about 3 years to accept the fact that this approach was totally unrealistic and it wasn't working. We had severe infestations of winter moth caterpillars, apple scab, mildew, apple sawfly, rosy apple aphid,
twig cutter weevil, capsid bug, codling moth and what not. Many trees died, others were stunted.
Response to an Apple Journal Reader
Our position is that the issues fruit growers face are complex and not easily described in catchy slogans or simplistic statements. Supporting our family farmers, protecting the environment, improving the quality and safety of produce, and feeding the population are worthy goals that resonate for most people. There are dangers in addressing any one of these areas to the exlusion of the others.
Is local the better consumer choice?
In the past couple of weeks, we've been discussing many issues as they relate to our food systems, and offering ways by which consumers can through their food choices affect change in how food is grown. In the course of our work on food concerns, Mothers & Others came upon an interesting dilemma that highlights the complexity of the food issue. Is local, if not organic, the better consumer choice? Does local not take into account more than just the environment?
How About Them Apples?
For many apple growers, it's going to be a chilly day in hell before they sit in the same room, let alone join forces, with Mothers & Others. The
1989 Alar controversy pit consumer against grower in a pitched battle over food safety. But, for the last three years, some intrepid Northeast apple
growers have found themselves in partnership with M&O, along with a long list of supportive individuals and institutions -- Cooperative Extension,
university agriculture scientists, state departments of agriculture, produce brokers and food retailers. The alliance that formed has developed
a consumer education and marketing program for local apples grown in accordance with ecologically-based production guidelines.
An Apple a Day...
"According to Jim VanKirk, the Northeast facilitator for Integrated Pest Management (IPM) activities, introduction of monocropping and non-native species made it all too easy for pests to get a foothold, putting farmers on what he calls "the pesticide treadmill." One way for farmers to wean themselves from chemical dependence is through IPM, which integrates many different methods--biological controls, crop rotation, resistant varieties and judiciously used chemicals--in a sustainable approach to managing pests."