Farm Bill upcoming

At Wild Garden, February is a time of planting seeds both in flats and in our minds.  The recent opportunities to be with farmers and others involved in organic agriculture has planted a lot of seeds that grow as we contemplate our future and act on our farms, at the market place and in the halls and communication lines of local and national government.

At the Organicology conference, I attended the Farm Policy session. I learned A LOT, especially that there are some amazing people who are doing a lot to work on these issues, and they provide us with opportunities to lend our voice to their valiant efforts.

The “Farm Bill” is generally revisited every 5 years or so and is due

Soy, a commodity crop subsidized by the farm bill

to be visited in 2012.  At that time congress will look at its $90+ billion budget and makes decisions about which programs will be retained and which ones cut.  According to the National Organic Coalition (http://www.nationalorganiccoalition.org/), food stamps, school lunches, and nutrition programs make up about half of the budget.  Commodity programs which subsidize large scale commodity agriculture (think corn, wheat, soy) account for another 30%.  The rest goes towards programs that range from conservation, forestry, renewable energy to beginning farmer programs and rural development.  You can go to the NOC website and learn more about the farm bill and see what programs they suggest we prioritize for protection and increased support

One of the programs that NOC is prioritizing would be very exciting for organic seed people like us.  Called the Institute for Seeds and Breeds for the 21st Century, it would focus on CLASSICAL breeding to improve public cultivars to meet regional needs.  This is an area that NEEDS public support as the bulk of support for many years has gone to breeding that is geared towards GMOs and hybrids with no effort to create characteristics which are beneficial to organic systems.  These types of varieties are also not as democratic, as farmers become dependent on certain companies which hold the sole rights to the parent lines which create hybrids. In fact Andrew Kimbrell, a lawyer from Center for Food Safety, appropriately named hybrids the original terminator technology. It is impossible for farmers to save the seeds from hybrids and get the results that they need to compete in the market place.  We need to support farmers and universities that are working on developing strong, adaptive open-pollinated crop varieties.  The Farm Bill could help with some of this support if we make our voices heard.

Employee retention plan for Gathering Together Farm and Wild Garden Seed: SNACK!

Farming for Love

Eric has mentioned all the Conferences we’ve been to lately.  It has been a real treat to interact with other farmers and get inspired. I wanted to write about the Farm Bill (coming soon), but looking at our last few postings, I decided to take a break from policy talk and talk about love.

Eric sowing the seeds of Love (actually lettuce)

At the Organicology conference, the keynote speaker was Andrew Kimbrell.  He is a lawyer for the Center for Food Safety, an amazing organization which has continuously and very successfully sued the USDA for deregulating various GMO crops.

His talk involved some scary talk about the insane overuse of pesticides that is occurring because of herbicide-tolerant GMOs, how companies are moving from

Round-up Ready on to 2-4-D resistant crops (AKA agent orange) and dicamba resistant crops because of the resistance that has developed due to the overuse of glyphosate (Round-up).

But his main message was not doom and gloom.  His main message was love.

Kimbrell proposed some myths perpetuated about organics that keep people in fear that if we embraced organics we would starve (i.e. organic ag can’t feed the world).   Then he refuted them:

  1. Organics is not “scientific”. Science is about observation.  Organic farmers are the best observers.  We pay attention to our soil, our plants our animals.  We adjust to their needs.  Ecology IS science.
  2. Organics is not “efficient”. Efficiency means most output with the least input of time and resources. Do we have to apply this concept to living things?! Would we give our children only the minimum amount of love and food to allow them to survive?  Yes we need to be efficient, but we are farmers that view the land, the soil, our plants and animals as our allies and partners in our goal of producing a product.  We should not be ashamed to balance “efficiency” with LOVE.
  3. Organics is not competitive. Why can’t we cooperate?  This earth is running out of resources and we waste a lot of those limited resources fighting with each other.
  4. Organics is against progress. If we had some money for research and education then we could progress a lot more!

I don’t want to be ashamed to feel love for my job, my coworkers, my crops, my soil.  The reality is that “consumers” also want us to treat our farms with love.  We just need to get the corporate interests out of our universities and halls of congress so that we can provide the products that people want.  Products produced with LOVE.