Why We Aren’t Organic Farmers

No. We aren’t organic. My livestock isn’t certified organic, and our farm operation isn’t either. I’m ok with my livestock not being certified, because I know I raise them in a natural way, and I’m not afraid to show people how they live.

Our cash crop operation is a different story. We use GM seeds, and herbicides. Personally, I go a little pink in the cheeks when I admit this. But the simple truth is that its far more profitable to grow conventional seeds than organic.

But, we do take steps to make the farm less damaging.

Crop Rotation applies to more than just your veggie garden!

Although I long for the nostalgic ways of yesteryear, the truth is farming wasn’t that environmentally friendly then either. The same crop was planted in the same spot, and that land was plowed year after year, stripping it of nutrients and inviting pests and disease. Things like sulphur, mercury, and arsenic compounds were used for crop protection. On many farms today, and ours in particular, crop rotation is an integral part of our yearly plan. This helps prevent disease and pest infestation. Also, crops each leave different amounts of organic matter. Example: corn is a large plant so it leaves behind a lot of organic matter, whereas soybeans are a smaller plant so leave behind less organic matter. Therefore it’s beneficial to soil health to plant a crop, like corn, that will enrich the soil after it’s harvested, and follow it with something like soybeans that will benefit from the extra nutrients.

We do grow non-GM soybeans most years (called IP beans: identity preserved) but they actually use more chemical sprays on IP beans because they don’t have the disease resistance of GM beans. So are non-GM beans better? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Soil healthis very important to us, so along with crop rotation, we also use a no-till

Click the picture to read more on soil erosion.

drill to plant our crops. This means the seeds are drilled directly in to the wheat, or bean stubble, without tilling it first. Excessive tilling causes soil erosion. Topsoil washes away when it rains or the snow melts, or even blows away in the wind. A neighboring farmer tills religiously, and has no wind breaks (like trees or natural hills) and on windy days you can actually see his topsoil blowing on the road. Although it is important to till occasionally to prevent soil compaction, doing it too much will deplete your soil.

An up-close look at a no-till drill

Along the lines of tilling, we are very mindful of the waterways in our fields. It’s crucial to leave the natural waterways, or lowest point in the field in grass to prevent run off. Run off takes away not only your topsoil and nutrients, but also any chemicals

An example of a grass waterway

you’ve put on the land. (Note: Not all fields have natural waterways, but when they do it’s important to respect them and not till them over)

One thing in particular we do not, and never will use is pesticides. In our area, aphids are our biggest obstacle, and even this past year we had an infestation of them that really hurt our yields. Some fields were so bad that 50% of the plants were black. Our local soil and crop inspector recommended we use pesticides, and although we don’t always see eye to eye, Farmer B and I were both adamantly against this idea. Pesticides are not selective (even though the chemical companies will tell you they are) and we have no interest in killing the every bug within our fields. Instead, we prayed for lady bugs! Lady bugs are natures defense for aphids, and we were lucky that they did show up before the entire crop went down the chute.

Ladybug feasting on aphids

We’re always looking for new ideas to help our operation while reducing chemical use. This year, we’ll be trying a type of radish  that is planted as a cover crop after wheat or beans, to loosen the soil and provide nutrients in the form of organic matter when they die and rot in the soil. You can read more about them here.

We know it’s an imperfect system, and there are still some farmers that don’t believe in any of these practices, but we try to improve as much as we can. If the seed companies spend as much time and money in developing chemical free ways to grow crops as they do investigating new genetic manipulations, we might get a little closer to an organic world. Until then, the best thing you can do if you want to see a change, is buy organic from the grocery store, get naturally produced meats, cheese, eggs and produce from your local farmers. If the demand for organic, natural, and chemical free increases, so will the incentive for farmers to grow it.

This post is featured in the Barn Hop. Click here to visit and find other great homesteading blogs!

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11 thoughts on “Why We Aren’t Organic Farmers

  1. In your opening paragraph you mention you use pesticides but later on you say that you do not use pesticides. Can you please clarify?

  2. Hi Marie! It was nice to meet you yesterday @ playgroup! I love meeting local people with like minds! Looking forward to hearing from you re: green cleaning get together! I couldn’t find a place on your site to contact you so I am just leaving this reply. I read your entire blog – love it and love your photos. I am jealous of all your animals!
    – Kim

    • Hi Kim! It was great meeting you too! Playgroup is such a great place 🙂 I’m glad you like the blog! As soon as I know a tentitve date I’ll let you know. You can email me directly at bmc.stevens@gmail.com if you’d like. Hopefully we’ll see you tomorrow!

  3. Stopping by from the Homestead Barn Hop. I can understand needing to do what it takes to feed your family, but I have to admit to being appalled that you choose to use GM seeds. I’ll also admit to not being a farmer and not knowing the ins and outs, but I go to great lengths to avoid any food containing GMO’s. I wish more people would protest/boycott/simply not use Monsanto’s inventions so their cash incentive would diminish. It’s discouraging to know that GM crops overtake non, so anyone using them is adding to the dilemma.

    What would it take for your family to change your use of GM seeds.

    • Hi and thanks for stipping by! I totally understand where your coming from, and I can honestly say that having been a person who knew nothing about farming, I also thought that the use of GM crops should be black and white. For us it does boild down to paying bills and feeding our family, but like I said in the artical we do make an effort to grow non-GM seeds as some of our crop. The issue is far greater than farners simply chosing not use those seeds. As I’ve come to learn, the farmer’s role in this controversy is small compared to that of the consumer. You have to remember how few farmers there are compared to consumers. The more consumers do like you and your family (buy organic, non GM ect), the faster change will be seen. I encourage you to write to your government, speak to your grocery store managers and complain to companies like Monsanto.
      For us to change to totally non-GM seeds in one season is impossible. Non_GM seeds are more expensive, and unless organic use more chemicals (which are also expensive) and if they are organic would bring in half the yeild due to the fact that plants have to compete with other vegetation (that otherwise would be killed off by herbicides) meaning half the income which would likely result in us losing our land (we farm several hundred acres which complcates things more than if it were just 50) But what we can do is work towards using less GM seeds each year and pray that markets change to favor non-GM products. I hope I’ve added a little more light to the situation, and as I said the situation is farm more complex than what this simple post can encompass.

  4. Hi Marie,
    I know the whole farming system needs to change, but change of that magnitude can’t happen overnight. It sounds like you basically expounded on the need for consumers to demand better options so that farmers can afford to grow it. I wish more Americans understood that we vote every day with our wallets and it’s a very powerful vote. I’m sure many feel powerless to change anything or do what it takes to “grow their own”. I doubt that we’ll ever be able to do that for all that we eat, but we’re sure trying for the things that we can! I just spent the day cutting and wrapping our first steer, raised without any grains, so that we can have GMO free beef. Next month it’s the pig’s turn. Eventually we’ll also raise our own poultry, but for now I’ve been buying it from a local farmer that doesn’t use GM feed. We have goats for all of our dairy and chickens for our eggs. However, even with all these steps we’ve taken, we can’t stay away from GMO’s completely.

    Thank you for replying and not being upset with my opinion!

    • I definitely believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and I’m always up for a little good-natured controversy! Luckily there seems to be an amazing grass-roots movement happening, and people are starting to experiment with raising their own food and becoming more aware of what they eat. Thanks again for stopping by and sharing your point of view!

  5. I’m glad you don’t use pesticides. But I haven’t been hearing good things about the effect the GMO corn has on bees – don’t the seeds have some kind of insecticide added?

    • Unfortunately that’s true. Many GM corn species are “pest resistant”. And although they say that they only resist the bad guys, and do no harm to the good guys (like bees), my logistical brain can not see how that would be true. It might be a much slower effect but I still can’t imagine how it wouldn’t affect them at all. Luckily for the bees on our farm, we don’t grow corn and haven’t for probably 10 years.

      • That’s good that you don’t have corn then. The trouble is the companies selling the GMO seeds aren’t required to test the effects of their products on bees over years or even months, they can get away with very short timescale studies and the government approves the product.

I love hearing from you and read (and try to respond to) every comment. Thank-you for taking the time to write one! "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." Ephesians. 4:29

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