“I made a conscious decision to start farming. My father
had bought this farm in 1960, and after looking at other options
I decided that the best opportunity I had was in the family farm.
I got into organic farming, because it was an opportunity to get
a niche market that financially would be better for me. I could
lower my cost of production, increasethe value of my product, and
help the soil in the process. I think that in agriculture, because
we’re a world market, it’s important to create a niche.
If you try to do what everybody’s been doing for 50 years,
you’ll have very little opportunity to advance yourself beyond
what anybody else is doing.
"I’ve been certified organic since 1999 for 400 acres
of corn, alfalfa and pasture. I’ve been very happy with my
results so far. In 1999 and 2000 my organic corn actually out yielded
my conventionally grown corn. 1999 was a very dry year, and with
the organic corn we saw that it looked full a lot longer, because
the organic nitrogen-because it was organic-was being released at
a much more desirable rate than on the conventionally grown corn.
In 2000 our organic corn yield was 181 bushels, versus our 177 bushels
conventionally grown. That’s not a significant amount, but
our production costs are lower. Sure, the labor per acre is higher,
but we don’t have to farm as many acres for the same amount
of profit. Last year, to produce a bushel ofconventional corn was
approximately $2.23. The cost to produce a bushel of organic corn
was $1.79. We got $2.25 a bushel for the conventional and a premium
price of $4.00 for the organic. For the hay, by providing high quality
product, and by trying to market it before it’s grown, the
number of clientele exceeds what I grow. It means that there’s
demand, and I can charge premium prices.
"I’ve learned a number of things through this process.
Farming organically you must plan much further ahead. You must have
adequate labor, whether physical or mechanical. Weeds are my biggest
challenge, but given good practices like rotating crops, I’ve
alleviated that challenge. It’s also important to have a source
of nutrients. I use my own dairy, poultry and green manure from
my winter crops, and nitrogen from legumes. You must also purchase
your seed in advance in order to get untreated seed. And you must
market your product before you ever grow it. And that’s a
different take than for conventional farming, where you often grow
your product and then do the marketing. If you have these ingredients,
then organic farming is relatively easy and profitable.”