of Farms is just one example of a thriving farmer cooperative that markets
nationwide (see organicvalley.com).
American farmers have to confront both old and new ideas about farm-
ing. If they grew up on a farm, they likely remember the post-World War
II era of chemical production and may find it difficult to find any alterna-
tives. On the other hand, most farmers know the dangers of agrichemicals,
are leery of the chemicals, and sometimes seek a way out of this type of
production. Family tradition can be a stumbling block for farmers seeking
new methods. “We have farmed this land with conventional methods for
generations, so why should I do it differently?” Plus they feel this is the
only way to obtain the high yields demanded in the industrial system of
agriculture. This is all they know. This is the only system they've seen.
We cannot expect to take hundreds of 1,000-acre industrial corn farms
and turn them each into 100 ten-acre organic vegetable farms - the markets,
consumers, farmers, and rural areas are simply not ready for that. But we
could try to take the 1,000-acre farms and break theminto four organic farms
of 250 acres each that are diverse crop and livestock operations. This is realis-
tic now. Then, in the future, we could work toward changing the agricultural
system, which is based on meat dependence. If we reduce the need for feed
grains, we would need more, smaller organic vegetable/grain/legume farms.
We must think big, but take appropriate, realistic steps now to change our
agriculture. We must make pragmatic changes that can actually happen
sooner, rather than make theoretical plans that can only - if ever - be im-
plemented much later. We need to support midsized family organic farms
that can lead us in the direction of a complete shift to organic methods.
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O UR ORGANIC FUTURE
Organic farming has proven itself as a viable option for farmers seeking to
work outside the industrial agricultural system. It is no longer a question of
whether organic farms can survive economically or produce enough food
to sustain us. Now we must ask the more complex and thought-provoking
questions: what level of ecological diversity can an organic farm achieve,
and how many distinct marketing channels can an organic farmer develop?
We know that organic agriculture is best for the environment, farmers,
and society. Yet we are torn between two visions of organic farming: the
historical grassroots organic movement was based on small integrated or-
ganic farms that sell locally versus the recent but increasing agribusiness
interests (Big O Ag) that have the monetary and political influence to win