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
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
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
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
- 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
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
Well I guess I’d better get at it or I won’t
have the information ready in time. Don’t forget to
From one farm to another,