'Eighteen inches of frozen ground. Guess I’ll get the paperwork done.'

As the winter meeting season winds down, and the organic paperwork starts to pile up, Jeff reflects on our new research focus on the human impact of farm chemicals, and wonders why we allowed ourselves to get so dependent on government handouts.

By Jeff Moyer, Farm Manager, The Rodale Institute

Jeff Moyer is the farm manager at the 333-acre Rodale Institute research farm, and has been here for over 26 years, refining the farm's cover cropping and crop rotation systems. The farm has over 1,000 organic apple trees, a 3-acre CSA, 270 acres in a rotation of corn, small grains, hay, and edible soy beans for a Japanese market, and 25 acres of experimental research plots that have been used to test and compare the yield, soil health and environmental impact of organic and conventional systems for the last 22 years.

"It's been extremely rewarding to work at The Rodale Institute," says Jeff. "Working on projects and with people who are having a positive impact on family farm practices, economics, and environmental stewardship is very fulfilling. The positive changes I've seen on our own farm over the years—and farms around the world— convinces me that we're on the right road."

How to contact Jeff

Jeff's email:

Phone: 610-683-1420

Mailing address:
611 Siegfriedale Rd.
Kutztown, PA 19530

Check out these articles for more research on the effects of consuming organic foods versus conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables:

News & Research
March 5, 2003: Eating Organic Food Reduces Pesticide Concentration in Kids

March 5, 2003: Our Burdened Bodies

Online Research Resources:

Warren P. Porter, of the University of Wisconsin, and others reported in 1999 that common ag pesticides in groundwater mixture with each other and nitrates had detrimental impacts together that they did not have individually. In this interview, Porter talks about the implications:

Elizabeth Guillette, anthropologist at the University of Arizona found profound and pervasive differences in two groups of Mexican children with similar genetics and culture, but different exposure to pesticides. Her work can be seen in the new video release “Playing with Poison”:

Tyrone B. Hayes, of the University of California at Berkeley, and others, reported in April that Atrazine disrupts the sexual development of frogs at concentrations 30 times lower than levels allowed by the US-EPA:

Joseph M. Kiesecker, a biologist at Penn State University, and other reported in July that deformities in frogs were increased when the amphibians suffered damaged immune systems caused by pesticide exposure:

MARCH 3, 2003, Kutztown, PA: Where is the spring of 2003? By now I’m usually frost seeding my alfalfa and getting ready to plow my oat ground. But it seems the winter just wants to hold on. We still have several inches of snow on the ground and this morning the temperature was in the single digits. Well, I guess warmer weather will arrive in its own good time.

Many area farmers are suggesting that the cold hard winter will help with insect and disease problems. I’m not sure what’s going on out there, but the ground is frozen about eighteen inches deep so I think it should be doing something. If you have any thoughts I’d love to hear from you.

Several of you have been writing to me to exchange information on cover crop ideas as well as comments on my organic no-till projects. I really appreciate hearing from you. Many of your ideas will be finding their way into next year’s treatments. I also hope to include a future article featuring suggestions from you. The more we can share ideas, the more we will all benefit. Got an idea or comment? Let me know.

I’m writing this article only four days after we held a research advisory board meeting here at The Rodale Institute®. Wow! What an exciting group of people. The premise of the two-day meeting was to help The Institute’s research staff think through some refocusing of our long-term systems projects and to plan for some new weed management studies we know we need to conduct.

But, what we all learned about the long-term effects of a chemical-based agricultural system on human health was far more shocking than I could have imagined. I’m sure you have some personal stories about family members or friends who everyone suspects has health problems from agricultural chemical exposure.

Well, the new focus of our work, based on the preliminary work of Dr. Warren Porter, endocrinologist and professor of zoology at the University of Wisconsin, and Dr. Elizabeth (Buzzy) Guillette, cultural anthropologist at the University of Florida, will be targeted at proving scientifically what we already suspect . . . that humans, especially children, suffer the tragic consequences of our ag chemical use.

The work of Porter, Guilette and others looking into the interactions that occur when humans are exposed to agricultural chemicals over time present a very scary scenario. I suggest you take the time to look up their research on the web for more details. We’ll also be reporting on their work in more detail on this website, and hope to have the members of our research advisory board host online discussions on this topic when our discussion forums are up and running in three or four weeks.

As I mentioned last month, I’ve been attending lots of meetings. The local county crop day’s event was about like I expected. Grain farmers were more positive than in past years, for two reasons:

  • Reason 1: The insurance adjusters were moving through the area writing checks to compensate for low yields due to the summer drought conditions.
  • Reason 2: The new farm bill is a bright spot on their radar. On the surface, it looks to be favorable to grain producers. (Though organic grain produces should beware. Congress is trying to undercut the NOP standards for organic livestock feed. If you want to urge your congressman to support efforts to restore the integrity of the organic standards, click here to send an email letter.)

Isn’t it sort of sad, though, when we as farmers are looking wantonly to the federal government, with our hands out, to help us survive for another year. Compare this with the attitude of the farmers I talked to a few days later at the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture winter meeting. Here, folks were excited to be involved with whatever agricultural activity they were working on. There wasn’t any discussion of crop insurance or government subsidies. Just honest hard working people trying to farm on their own two feet.

I also spent a few days meeting with a group of agricultural research farm managers that get together once a year to exchange ideas. Twenty years ago I was the only person working on organic type projects. Today, at least half of the folks currently have some component of organic on their farm or are looking at future projects that will contain an organic treatment. We’re making progress on all fronts. Still it’s you folks, the farmers, who are really the driving force and the real innovators in directing the research.

I’m also working on getting my paperwork in order as I prepare to fill out my recertification forms for The Institute’s organic certification. It sounds like a lot of work, but if you keep decent notes throughout the year, save labels off the products you use, and understand what the inspectors are looking for, you can make short work of it. The process also forces all of us to do what we know we should do anyway – write things down in a systematic way. Not many farmers I talk to enjoy paperwork. It doesn’t matter what you do in the world toda, "the system" requires you to document it. Organic certification is no different. So, like the rest of you, I’m sitting down to get it done.

Well I guess I’d better get at it or I won’t have the information ready in time. Don’t forget to write back.

From one farm to another,