Sure it’s great to feel the sun on your skin again, but resist
the temptation to flee the Deep Thoughts of Winter. As adrenaline
pushes you from reflection to action, vow to keep the issues that
matter most in mind, too.
Much is good, profitable and right about the organic farming sector
in early 2007. Media attention in the past year to the growth of
consumer demand for local products and organics in general continues
to draw new producers into an expanding sector. While there’s
concern that large dairies coming on line may oversupply the organic
milk market and there’s a leveling of some organic grain prices,
upward opportunity still seems to be the prevailing assessment.
This growth comes with the inherent volatility of a sector that
is advancing unevenly in about any category you can name: geographical
region, type of crop, support from land-grants or state departments
of agriculture, livestock feed infrastructure, certified processing
facilities and even popular understanding at any depth—of
why organics really matters.
Two areas of turbulence—where sustainable progress isn’t
as solid as it needs to be—are the need to build competence
and confidence in the organic seed industry and, perhaps, the rate
of attrition of beginning organic farmers.
Richard Glenister’s letter last month about organic seed
unlocked the strongest response of anything we’ve published
since NewFarm.org started in late 2002. Experienced, respected organic
growers clearly want to press for increasing the use of organic
seed by organic growers, but they also point out the need to deal
with gaps in supply and quality that can have serious impacts on
their seasons and on their trust.
these letters and reflect on your own experience. Let
us know your ideas on the best ways that farmers, certifiers,
regulators and hard-working seed people can cooperate to reward
the investment and risk needed to keep increasing the percentage
of certified-organic seed that produces successful crops on successful
Collaboration is also the key to orienting new entrants into organic
farming in a way that better matches their expectations with the
reality they have to face. Yes, there’s a formal set of regulations
and lots of forms. But the heart of organics is accepting a level
of biological complexity and interaction that requires a learning
community to navigate. Articulating these “big picture”
guideposts at the threshold points to organic conversion may better
equip those who choose to continue the journey.