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History of Organic Agriculture


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I developed this presentation for my Intro to Sustainable Agriculture class last fall (2010)

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History of Organic Agriculture

  1. 1. Historical development of organic agriculture
  2. 2. It is often said that “everyone farmed organically back in the day” Organic by neglect or omission
  3. 3. -523,000 tons of N/yr ! The late 19th century was not a good time for IL soils! N budget for Illinois (units are 1000 metric tons N / yr) (David et al., 2001)
  4. 4. Ag scientists like CG Hopkins were dismayed by the widespread degradation of the nation’s most productive soils in the 19th/early 20th centuries and vigorously campaigned for “permanent” systems of agriculture that restored and maintained soil fertility.
  5. 5. Introduction
  6. 6. Collection of articles first published in “The Country Gentleman”, a widely read agricultural magazine that eventually merged with “Farm Journal”
  7. 7. Famous photo of Cyril Hopkins Wheat harvested Wheat harvested from 1 ac treated with from 1 ac treated manure, lime and rock with manure phosphate
  8. 8. Franklin Hiram King (1848-1911) Like Hopkins, King was very concerned by the widespread degradation of Midwest soils “ We desired to learn how it is possible, after twenty and perhaps thirty or even forty centuries, for their soils to be made to produce sufficiently for the maintenance of such dense populations.. “ Farmers of Forty Centuries, 1911
  9. 9. Fertilizing with night soil
  10. 10. While concerned mostly about depletion of mineral fertility, Hopkins and other advocates of “Permanent” agriculture paved the way for broader critique of the agricultural establishment
  11. 11. Sir Albert Howard (1873-1947)
  12. 12. Although many concepts of organic farming predated his work, Sir Albert Howard is commonly regarded as the father of organic agriculture. Albert Howard was raised on a farm in England, and educated at Cambridge University. He briefly served (1899 -1902) as a mycologist in the Imperial Department of Agriculture for the West Indies, before returning to England to teach agricultural science from 1903-1905 at South-Eastern Agricultural College in Wye. He then moved to India where for twenty-six years he served as the director of several agricultural research centers before permanently returning to England in 1931.
  13. 13. It was after his return to England that Howard became well known for his concepts and philosophy of organic farming. Drawing on his many years of agricultural research experience, he spent the rest of his life writing and lecturing on composting, soil fertility, and relationships between farming practices and crop, livestock and human health. In 1943, Howard published An Agricultural Testament, in which he described the importance of observing natural systems as a guide for the maintenance of soil fertility in agricultural systems.
  14. 14. An Agricultural Testament by Sir Albert Howard Chapter 1 Introduction The maintenance of the fertility of the soil is the first condition of any permanent system of agriculture. In the ordinary processes of crop production fertility is steadily lost: its continuous restoration by means of manuring and soil management is therefore imperative.
  15. 15. “In the study of soil fertility, the first step is to bring under review the various systems of agriculture which so far have been evolved. These fall into four main groups: 1. the methods of Nature -- the supreme farmer -- as seen in the primeval forest, in the prairie, and in the ocean; 2. the agriculture of the nations which have passed away; 3. the practices of the Orient, which have been almost unaffected by Western science; and 4. the methods in vogue in regions like Europe and North America to which a large amount of scientific attention has been paid during the last hundred years.”
  16. 16. “Little or no consideration is paid in the literature of agriculture to the means by which Nature manages land and conducts her water. Nevertheless, these natural methods of soil management must form the basis of all our studies of soil fertility. What are the main principles underlying Nature's agriculture? These can most easily be seen in operation in our woods and forests. Mixed farming is the rule: plants are always found with animals: many species of plants and of animals all live together. In the forest every form of animal life, from mammals to the simplest invertebrates, occurs. The vegetable kingdom exhibits a similar range: there is never any attempt at monoculture: mixed crops and mixed farming are the rule.”
  17. 17. “The soil is always protected from the direct action of sun, rain, and wind. In this care of the soil strict economy is the watchword: nothing is lost. The whole of the energy of sunlight is made use of by the foliage of the forest canopy and of the undergrowth. The leaves also break up the rainfall into fine spray so that it can the more easily be dealt with by the litter of plant and animal remains which provide the last line of defence of the precious soil. These methods of protection, so effective in dealing with sun and rain, also reduce the power of the strongest winds to a gentle air current.”
  18. 18. According to what Howard called "the Law of Return," all organic waste materials, including sewage sludge, should be returned to farmland. Recalling his experiences in India, he described the "Indore" (after a region in India) method of composting and prescribed a certain pile size, heat, moisture, aeration, and mix of plant, animal, urine- soaked earth, and ash materials as the proper composting recipe. Especially important to a good mix of composting materials, Howard stressed, were residues from both plants and animals.
  19. 19. Howard was not alone in his appreciation of the value of recycling organic wastes back to farmland
  20. 20. Howard was very concerned about the increasing “overspecialization” in conventional agricultural science -- "learning more and more about less and less" -- and tried to broadly investigate how to grow healthy crops in typical conditions in the field, rather than the atypical conditions in laboratories and test-plots.
  21. 21. In Farming and Gardening for Health or Disease (later published as Soil and Health), Howard introduced the idea that disease, whether in plants, animals or humans, was caused by unhealthy soil and that proper farming techniques would make the soil and those living on it, healthy. As evidence he cited his observations that animals fed with crops grown in humus-rich soil were able to rub noses with diseased animals (including animals infected with foot and mouth disease) without becoming infected. More generally he argued that the correct method for dealing with a pathogen was not to destroy the pathogen but rather to try to learn from it or to "make use of it for tuning up agricultural practice.”
  22. 22. In 2001, a serious outbreak of FMD in Britain resulted in the slaughter of ~ 300,000 cattle, the postponing of the general election for a month, and the cancellation of many sporting events and leisure activities. Due to strict government Was this the only option? policies on sale of livestock, disinfection of all persons leaving and entering farms and the cancellation of large events likely to be attended by farmers, a potentially economically disastrous epizootic was avoided.
  23. 23. Howard studied the traditional farming practices used by India's peasant farmers and the pests and weeds that conventional agricultural scientists were committed to fighting with an ever-widening array of poisons, but which Howard called his "Professors of Agriculture". He saw pests in the context of Nature's use for them as sensors of soil fertility levels and indicators of unsuitable crops growing in unsuitable conditions.
  24. 24. While Howard recognized the significance of Justus von Liebig's writings on agricultural chemistry, he was not a fan. Howard thought that Liebig had led agriculture astray by vigorously combatting the “humus theory” of plant nutrition and promoting the "NPK mentality,” that is, the practice of fertilizing only or principally with inorganic sources of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
  25. 25. One of Howard's main criticisms was that Liebig focused his attention on soil chemistry to the neglect of soil biology and physics. Liebig’s single-minded focus on chemistry (and his stature as a preminent scientist) led to diminished appreciation of the value of soil organic matter by ag scientists and farmers. Howard never lost his appreciation for humus and extolled its profound influence on the health of soils, plants, animals, and mankind.
  26. 26. Howard opposed the use of “artificial” fertilizers but considered some untreated rock materials to be acceptable. Howard's hard-line position against the use of “artificial” fertilizers, was not shared by some of his contemporary supporters who felt that the use of “artificial” fertilizers could sometimes be justified.
  27. 27. Howard’s hard-line opposition to the use of “artificial” fertilizers is often considered extremism but is really not anymore extreme than Liebig's absolute concept of plants using "only" inorganic forms of nutrients. Unfortunately Howard's stance on fertilizers contributed to the common but mistaken impression that organic farming is simply farming without the use of synthetic fertilizers and other agrichemicals.
  28. 28. In Howard's long and distinguished career as an agricultural scientist, he made many significant discoveries related to plant breeding, irrigation, mycorrhizae , soil aeration, fruit tree cultivation, post- harvest handling, weed management, and diseases of plants and humans. For these widely recognized contributions to agriculture he was knighted in 1934. As Howard became increasingly critical of conventional ag science, his scientific colleagues began to view his ideas on humus, soil fertility, and disease as exaggerations of otherwise fundamentally sound ideas.
  29. 29. In 1946, Howard acted out his new role of agricultural contrarian most explosively in a book titled The War in the Soil. This book opens with the powerful assessment that: "The war in the soil is the result of a conflict between the birthright of humanity--fresh food from fertile soil-- and the profits of a section of Big Business in the shape of the manufacturers of artificial fertilizers and their satellite companies who produce poison sprays to protect crops from pests and who prepare the various remedies for the diseases of livestock and mankind."
  30. 30. Howard loudly criticized the field plot and statistical methodologies used at the Rothamsted agricultural experiment station. He thought that the long term experiments were flawed because they did not exclude invasion from burrowing earthworms into the chemically fertilized plots, relied on continuous cultivation without crop rotation, and used new seeds from an outside source.
  31. 31. Although Howard was a passionate advocate of what is now known as organic farming, he did not use the term "organic" to describe the system of agriculture that he promoted. Lord Walter Northbourne, a British agronomist, academic (long time Provost of the agricultural college of London University), elite athlete (silver medalist in rowing at the 1920 Olympics), translator, and author of books about agriculture and comparative religion, was the first to use the word "organic" to describe a method of farming.
  32. 32. In 1940, Northbourne introduced his concept of the ideal “farm as an organic whole"-- i.e. "having a complex but necessary interrelationship of parts, similar to that in living things“ in an influential book titled, Look to the Land.
  33. 33. In Look to the Land, Northbourne wrote that “chemical farming is regulated mainly according to the combined recommendations of the farm economist, with his calculating machines and ledgers, and the chemist” He warned that farming should not be “treated as a mixture of chemistry and cost accountancy, nor can it be pulled into conformity with the requirements of modern business, in which speed, cheapness, and standardizing count most. Nature will not be driven. If you try, she hits back slowly, but very hard”
  34. 34. Within Northbourne’s concept of organic farming, the organic farmer’s role is to coordinate the many components of a diversified farming system – so that resource cycling and self-regulating processes are optimized. It is important to distinguish this holistic concept of "organic“ from the common misunderstanding that the word "organic“ (in the context of organic farming) refers only to the biological origin or carbon based chemistry of inputs.
  35. 35. An American businessman, J.I. Rodale read some of Howard’s writings and was so moved by Howard's vision— (he described the experience as like being hit by a "ton of bricks“)--that he purchased a farm near Allentown, Pennsylvania, and began experimenting with composting and organic farming techniques.
  36. 36. Jerome Irving Rodale was born in New York City in 1898, the son of a grocer, and thus was connected to the food industry but had little to no connection to agriculture early on. He was a very successful entrepreneur who started out manufacturing electrical switches but eventually founded a publishing empire (Rodale Press), launched several very successful magazines (e.g. Organic Gardening, Prevention), and published many books (including some he authored) on agriculture, human health and many other topics.
  37. 37. In 1942, Rodale began publishing Organic Farming and Gardening magazine with Howard serving as the associate editor. Through this magazine and other publications Rodale popularized organic concepts in the United States. Rodale's 1945 book Pay Dirt, with an introduction by Howard, introduced organic farming concepts to a wide audience. For approximately the next 2 and a half decades, JI Rodale promoted organic concepts with missionary zeal and probably did more than anyone else to increase awareness and interest in organic gardening and farming in the US. Both Howard and Rodale saw the conflict of organic versus mainstream agriculture as a struggle between two different visions of what agriculture should become as they engaged in a war of words with the agricultural establishment.
  38. 38. In 1948, Rodale sent over 10,000 copies of Organic Farming and Gardening to farmers with a $1 subscription offer… and only received $10 back. Undeterred, Rodale targeted gardeners as his primary audience. The circulation of Organic Gardening magazine increased from 260,000 in 1960 to 1,300,000 in 1980 (most widely read gardening publication in the world at the time).
  39. 39. Many factors, such as the migration of “back to the landers” from the cities to the country, the growing environmental movement, and the anti-establishment social revolution, were responsible for the increasing popularity of Rodale Press publications.
  40. 40. In 1962, Rachel Carson wrote "Silent Spring", chronicling the effects of DDT and other pesticides on the environment. The book was a bestseller in many countries and is widely recognized as a key factor leading to the banning of DDT (1972 in the US) and the emergence of a worldwide environmental movement. Rachel Louise Carson (1907 - 1964)
  41. 41. Initially, agricultural scientists largely ignored organic farming and gardening but agricultural colleges and experiment stations were increasingly besieged with letters of inquiry from the public and it became impossible to ignore the organic movement. One of the first attempts to respond to the organic advocates was undertaken by Dr. Firman E. Bear, a prominent soil chemist from Rutgers University, who in a 1947 article "Facts...and Fancies About Fertilizer,” referred to Sir Albert Howard, E.B. Balfour, J.I. Rodale, and E.H. Faulkner as "gloomy prophet[s].“ Other articles critical of the organic movement were published during this period of polarization such as “The Great Organic Gardening Myth."
  42. 42. Edward Faulkner, author of the best selling book Plowman's Folly (1943), was a controversial figure in his time but is now regarded as a pioneer of no-till and soil conservation practices.
  43. 43. Louis Bromfield (1896 – 1956) was an American author and conservationist who gained international recognition for his writing (30 best-sellers, several movies and a Pulitzer Prize) and for promoting innovative ecologically oriented farming practices. In 1939, after living in France for over 10 years, Louis Bromfield returned to Ohio and purchased Malabar Farm, near Mansfield. Bromfield dedicated the rest of his life to agriculture and sought to create a farm that promoted soil conservation but also continued to write books and articles. His later books, including Pleasant Valley, focused on soil conservation and other farming issues. He continued to socialize with prominent artists, including Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart. The two Louis Bromfield working on actors were married at Malabar Farm in another book 1945.
  44. 44. William Albrecht was a leading soil scientist who served as the head of the Agronomy Dept at the U of Missouri and as the president of the Soil Science Society of America. In his latter years, he wrote extensively about the relationship between soil fertility and animal and human health. He felt that animal health (and ultimately human health) was related to soil Dr. William Albrecht fertility and that proper management of soils would solve 1886-1974 most crop, livestock and human disease problems.
  45. 45. Platform for sharing Dr. Albrecht’s views on soil management
  46. 46. ”Acres U.S.A. was founded on the belief that the world did not begin in 1948, when the research and development bonanza of World War II combined with a flood of special interest money to create a new kind of agriculture, based on petrochemical inputs. Nor did the world of scientific farming, attuned to nature, stop dead in its tracks. In fact, much of the best work in sustainable technology was just beginning. Readers of Acres U.S.A. reap the harvest of courageous innovators who sidestepped the Ag Establishment for decades.”
  47. 47. In the early 1940s, Dr. Fukuoka quit his job as a soil microbiologist, returned to his family's farm in southern Japan, and devoted the next 60 years to developing natural no- Masanobu Fukuoka till methods of growing citrus, (1913 – 2008) rice and other crops. Americans became familiar with Fukuoka through articles in Rodale publications and his book “The One-Straw Revolution”
  48. 48. Lady Eve Balfour (1899-1990) is best known as the founder of The Soil Association, Britain's leading organic food and farming organization. The Soil Association was born in 1946, following publication of Lady Eve Balfour's bestselling book about organic agriculture, “The Living Soil” (Faber & Faber 1943). In 1939, she launched the Haughley Experiment on her farm in Suffolk, England. It was the first scientific, . side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional farming and was maintained for 33 years.
  49. 49. The Haughley Experiment Three side-by-side units of land were established, each large enough to operate a full farm rotation, so that the food-chains involved — soil–plant– animal and back to the soil — could be studied as they functioned through successive rotational cycles, involving many generations of plants and animals, in order that interdependences between soil, plant and animal, and also any cumulative effects could develop.
  50. 50. One unit was a stockless arable farm — the other two were both ley farms (ley = temporary pasture alternating with arable crops) operating the same rotation. Each carried a herd of dairy cows, a flock of poultry and a small flock of sheep. All livestock was fed exclusively on the produce of its own unit, replacements were home bred and cereal and pulse crops raised from home-grown seed. All wastes of crops and stock were returned only to its own unit. Only livestock products and surplus animals were sold off the farm. All crops were fed to the animals.
  51. 51. On one of the ley units called the Mixed Section supplementary chemical fertilizers were used, as well as herbicides, insecticides and fungicides when deemed necessary. On the other ley unit, called the Organic Section, no chemicals were used. It was thus entirely dependent on its own biological fertility. As nearly as possible, a closed cycle was maintained (except for the sale of animal products).
  52. 52. Some research results Ecology of Earthworms under the ‘Haughley Experiment’ of Organic and Conventional Management Regimes - R. J. Blakemore Significant differences in earthworm populations and soil properties were found in three sections of a farm at Haughley in Suffolk that, since 1939, had either an organic, a mixed conventional, or a stockless intensive arable regime. Compared with the mean earthworm population of a 1,000 year old permanent pasture of 424.0/m2; an organic field had 178.6/m2; a mixed field 97.5/m2; and a stockless field 100.0/m2. Soil analyses showed the organic soil had higher moisture, organic C, and mineral N, P, K, and S compared with soil from the stockless field. The organic soil also had lower bulk density and good crumb structure whereas the stockless soil was cloddy and subject to puddling. The properties of the mixed field soil were intermediate to the others. Choice chambers offering the three field soils, with and without organic amendments, showed an earthworm preference for the organic soil (total 96 worms) compared to the mixed and stockless soils (75 and 73 worms).
  53. 53. When the Haughley Experiment was terminated in the 1970s, the results were not as clear as had been hoped (hardly surprising since we still have a poor understanding of how to measure soil and food quality), but the experiment helped clarify how the best of old and new traditions in land husbandry could be effectively combined.
  54. 54. In the early 1920s, Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, gave a series of lectures on the “Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture” which inspired the development of Biodynamic agriculture. Biodynamic farming has much in common with other organic approaches, such as emphasizing the production and use of Rudolph Steiner compost and excluding of the use of (1861-1925) synthetic inputs. Methods unique to Biodynamics include the use of fermented herbal and mineral preparations as compost additives and field sprays and the use of an astrological planting calendar.
  55. 55. Dr. Ehrenfried Pfeiffer (1899–1961) was born in Germany and worked closely with Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s. In 1928, he became the director of a biodynamic research farm in Holland and visited the U.S. several times during the 1930s giving lectures on biodynamic agriculture. In 1940, he immigrated to the U.S. and provided leadership for several biodynamic farms where he pioneered the testing and documentation of biodynamic practices. He helped establish the Biodynamic Farming & Gardening Association in Kimberton, PA where he developed a friendship with JI Rodale.
  56. 56. Composts treated with BD preparations maintained an average 3.4C higher temperatures throughout the active 8 week active composting period. BD- treated piles respired CO2 at a 10% lower rate. Final samples of BD- treated composts contained 65% more nitrate than control piles. In conclusion, BD preparations caused discernible changes in compost chemical and microbial parameters
  57. 57. Biodynamic agriculture is much more common in Europe than the US but there are a growing # of biodynamic vineyards in the US.
  58. 58. In 1993, AO adopted Biodynamic farming practices. 2000+ member CSA in Northern IL
  59. 59. In addition to writing/publishing magazines and books about gardening and farming, JI Rodale also launched a “Wellness revolution”. In 1950, he founded Prevention magazine to teach readers how to prevent disease through a healthy lifestyle and diet versus just treating the symptoms of disease.
  60. 60. Rodale also wrote books promoting the healthful effects of exercise and fruit and vegetable rich diets (e.g. How to Eat for a Healthy Heart, The Hawthorne Berry for the Heart, Lower Your Pulse Rate and Live Longer, and Happy People Rarely Get Cancer). The Federal Trade Commission ordered Rodale to stop advertising and selling the books, claiming that the medical advice given in his books was unsubstantiated.
  61. 61. Rodale engaged in legal battles with the FTC for almost two decades, at times putting his entire personal net worth at risk. Over the years, the FTC, fearing that they would lose their case on constitutional grounds, attempted to settle with Rodale. But despite financial hardship, Rodale refused to back down unless the FTC agreed to acknowledge that the First Amendment prohibited them from regulating books and printed material.
  62. 62. In the later years of the case, Rodale's lawyers introduced new testimony from some of the same leading medical experts that the government originally used at the initial FTC hearings almost 20 years earlier. One by one, the experts refuted their original testimony, claiming they "didn't know back then," and admitted that many of Rodale's original claims had since become established medical facts.
  63. 63. In 1971, while describing his legal problems with the FTC on national television, J. I. Rodale dropped dead. Until he actually stopped breathing and turned blue, everyone watching the taping of The Dick Cavett Show thought Rodale was faking a heart attack in order to make a point about his troubles with the FTC.
  64. 64. Just days before his death, J.I Rodale stumped before an audience in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The gray-haired contrarian leader of the organic movement boasted to his followers, “My friends, my time has come. Years ago they heaped violence and poured ridicule on my head. I was called a cultist and a crackpot…but now I am suddenly becoming a prophet here on earth, a prophet with profits.” Rodale’s talents as spokesman for organic farming lifted him from a childhood of immigrant poverty to become the head of the multi-billion dollar Rodale Press by the end of his life.
  65. 65. Today Prevention magazine has ~12 million readers, and Rodale Press is the largest health-oriented publisher in the world, publishing ~ 100 new “wellness” titles each year that sell a combined 20+ million copies per year.
  66. 66. Sir Robert McCarrison (1878 – 1960) was a pioneering physician and nutritionist who is credited with being the first scientist to experimentally demonstrate the effect of dietary deficiencies upon animal tissues and organs. He also carried out human experiments aimed at identifying the cause of goitre, and included himself as one of the experimental subjects. At age 23, he went to India, where he spent 30 years investigating relationships between nutrition and contrasting disease patterns in the Indian subcontinent. McCarrison concluded that many common diseases increasingly prevalent in industrial societies were caused by diets made defective by extensive food processing, and the use of chemical additives. He deplored the universal consumption in Britain and America of refined white flour and the substitution of canned, preserved and artificially sweetened products for fresh natural food.
  67. 67. McCarrison's work was widely published in medical journals. He was honored for his discoveries, but his recommendations were largely ignored by government and the medical profession at a time when medical thought was absorbed in the study of treatment of disease rather than the prevention of disease and the promotion of health.
  68. 68. Mouse on a “modern” diet Mouse on a Hunza diet
  69. 69. Weston A. Price, DDS (1870–1948) was a dentist and nutritionist. He was the chairman of the Research Section of the American Dental Association from 1914–1923, but was later marginalized by the American Dental Association for his outspoken views. In 1939, Price published "Nutrition and Physical Degeneration”, a book that details a series of ethnographic nutritional studies performed by Price across diverse cultures. Price reported that the plagues of modern civilization (e.g., headaches, general muscle fatigue, dental cavities, impacted molars, tooth crowding, allergies, heart disease, asthma, and degenerative diseases such as tuberculosis and cancer) were not present in cultures sustained by indigenous diets. However, within a single generation of adopting a Western diet ( e.g., refined sugars, refined flours, canned goods…) these same cultures experienced all the ailments listed above.
  70. 70. Have you ever heard of the great Joe Rollino? Shadow boxing at 103 in 2008 Joe adopted a vegetarian diet as a teenager before going on to perform many feats of extraordinary strength
  71. 71. Shortly after J.I. Rodale died, his son Robert Rodale purchased a 333-acre farm near Kutztown, PA (that later became the Rodale Institute). He began hiring scientists with strong credentials and launched an era of organic validation through research. Powerful testimony by Robert as well as many organic farmers and scientists convinced the U.S. Congress to include funds for organic agriculture in the 1985 Farm Bill. This was the beginning of an ongoing process of scientific validation and refinement of organic agriculture by research and education programs.
  72. 72. Initiated in 1981, The Rodale Institute’s Farming Systems Trial® (FST) is the longest-running side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional farming systems in the US, and one of the oldest in the world. What began as a 5-year controlled study of what a typical American grain farmer would go through to give up chemical fertilizers and pesticides has matured into a complex, interdisciplinary, collaborative project that will be continued indefinitely. The FST compares three strategies, or 'systems,' for grain production: a conventional BMP system, a livestock-based organic system, and a legume-based organic system.
  73. 73. Key FST research results after 25 years 1) higher soil carbon and nitrogen levels in the organic systems 2) comparable crop yields for organic and conventional systems in years of average precipitation, and greater for organic systems in drought years 3) fossil energy inputs for organic systems were over 30% lower 4) labor inputs in organic systems averaged ~15% higher 5) net economic return for organic systems was equal or higher
  74. 74. Soils from the FST Crop residues Crop residues Cover Crops Animal manure >20 years of similar tillage intensity and total C input but contrasting types of organic inputs
  75. 75. Robert Rodale was concerned about the negative baggage that the term “organic“ had accumulated and preferred the term “regenerative agriculture”.
  76. 76. Robert Rodale was killed in a traffic accident in Moscow in 1990 while launching a Russian language “New Farm” magazine. Most farmers are using methods that do not allow production flexibility. American agriculture of the conventional type "works" only when the throttle governing energy and input flows is pulled all the way out. Farmers lack the option of switching-either permanently or temporarily-to an alternate system that performs well when conventional production is not profitable. Paraphrased Robert Rodale quote that caught my attention back in the 80s
  77. 77. In the late 1970s, under the direction of the Secretary of Agriculture, Robert Bergland, the USDA began surveying the organic farming sector. The results were published in 1980 in a publication titled Report and Recommendations on Organic Farming with a stated purpose of "increasing communication between organic farmers and the USDA”
  78. 78. In 1981, the American Society of Agronomy held a Symposium on Organic Farming to examine the question – Can organic farming contribute to a more sustainable agriculture? They concluded: "The most probable answer is that it most definitely can… and ...the soils for the two farming systems may be quite different, each with its own unique chemical and biological properties and crop production capabilities .“
  79. 79. The period from 1979 to 1990 was an era of growing recognition for organic farming at a national level in the United States. With rapidly growing public interest in organic food and farming, interest in establishing standards for organically produced foods also increased. In 1979, California passed the first legal standard for organic production in the US.
  80. 80. This new attention and recognition led to a backlash in 1981 from the incoming Reagan administration which tried to bury the USDA Report and Recommendations on Organic Farming. The new administration also abolished the recently established position of Organic Resources Coordinator, held by Garth Youngberg, who had been a member of the USDA Study Team for Organic Farming. During this time a former Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz, released his infamous statement that millions would starve if all farmers adopted organic methods.
  81. 81. In the 1980s, organic industry groups and many other organizations (e.g., the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and the American Farm Bureau Federation) petitioned for the USDA to develop national organic standards. Rationale for national organic standards • multiple standards created consumer confusion and undermined confidence in the integrity of organic products •multiple standards caused labeling and marketing difficulties for manufacturers of multi-ingredient organic products • the USDA and FDA would not permit meat to be labeled as organically produced without national standards •lack of a consistent U.S. organic standard limited access to a potentially lucrative international organic market
  82. 82. The Federal Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 set out to: 1) Establish national standards governing the marketing of organically produced products 2) Assure consumers that organically produced products meet a consistent standard; 3) Facilitate interstate commerce in both fresh and processed organic foods.
  83. 83. The full development of USDA Organic standards took more than a decade. Initially, the proposed standards did not prohibit the use of sewage sludge, food irradiation and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). These allowances resulted in enormous public outcry which eventually led to their removal from the final rules. The USDA Certified Organic label was introduced on October 21, 2002.
  84. 84. USDA definition of Organic Agriculture “Organic farming is a production system which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetically compounded fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators and livestock feed additives. To the maximum extent feasible organic farming systems rely on crop rotations, crop residues, animal manures, legumes, green manures, off- farm organic wastes, and aspects of biological pest control to maintain soil productivity and tilth, to supply plant nutrients and to control insects, weeds and other pests.
  85. 85. Lists of allowed and prohibited materials
  86. 86. § 205.601 Synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production. In accordance with restrictions specified in this section, the following synthetic substances may be used in organic crop production: Provided, That, use of such substances do not contribute to contamination of crops, soil, or water. Substances allowed by this section, except disinfectants and sanitizers (a) As algicide, disinfectants, and sanitizer, including irrigation system cleaning systems. (1) Alcohols. (i) Ethanol. (ii) Isopropanol. (2) Chlorine materials— Except, That, residual chlorine levels in the water shall not exceed the maximum residual disinfectant limit under the Safe Drinking Water Act. (i) Calcium hypochlorite. (ii) Chlorine dioxide. (iii) Sodium hypochlorite. (3) Copper sulfate—for use as an algicide in aquatic rice systems, is limited to one application per field during any 24-month period. Application rates are limited to those which do not increase baseline soil test values for copper over a timeframe agreed upon by the producer and accredited certifying agent. (4) Hydrogen peroxide. and many more…
  87. 87. Starting in 2009, the Allison Farm has been certified by MOSA
  88. 88. You can look up the names and contact info for all the farms certified by each accredited certifier
  89. 89. Organic certification Detailed farm plan showing all fields and buffers Documentation of all inputs Documentation that equipment not solely used for organic has been cleaned properly On-farm inspection 3 year transition
  90. 90. During the past 20 years, the market demand for certified organic products has increased by about 20 percent annually in the US. Organic product sales in the US currently exceed $20 billion!
  91. 91. Organic farm stats for 2008 farms farms farms acres total sales > $100k > $500k USA 14,540 4,077,337 3,164,995 4,172 1,077 CA 2,714 470,903 1,148,650 840 361 19% 12% 36% 20% 34%
  92. 92. “Refuting popular portrayals of organic agriculture as a small-scale family farm endeavor in opposition to industrial agriculture, Guthman explains how organic farming has replicated what it set out to oppose.”
  93. 93. Organic farm stats for 2008 Top 5 states by farm # Top 5 states by acres California – 2714 Wyoming – 677,147 Wisconsin – 1222 California – 470,903 Washington – 887 Texas – 314,279 New York – 827 Montana – 284,482 Oregon – 657 Wisconsin – 195,603
  94. 94. Midwest Organic Farm Stats 2001 2008 2001-2008 State acres acres % growth IN 4175 13019 212% IL 21324 30662 44% IA 80354 94568 18% WI 91619 195,603 113%
  95. 95. Midwest Organic Farm Stats 2008 2008 2008 2008 total sales State # of farms # > 100k # >$500k in millions IN 148 52 3 13.9 IL 229 51 10 23.6 IA 518 162 28 71.5 WI 1222 395 44 132.8
  96. 96. ~ $500 million of organic foods purchased in IL each year < 5% of farm products from IL
  97. 97. The U of Illinois played an important role in launching the first Illinois Organic Production Conference in 2005. 170 people attended. In 2006, the conference attracted 50% more attendees including many conventional producers interested in learning more about organic farming.
  98. 98. Jack Erisman Currently ~ 2500 acres of grains, forages and beef in Pana, IL
  99. 99. Hailing from small vegetable farms, large grain and livestock farms and even larger ranches, the 60 producers profiled in The New American Farmer, have embraced new approaches to agriculture. They are renewing profits, enhancing environmental stewardship and improving the lives of their families as well as their communities.
  100. 100. Barefoot Gardens John and Karen Curtis Many small “organic” farms that direct market are not certified – if their sales exceed $5000 they can not legally use the word organic
  101. 101. What Drew Me to Organic? • Less competition in organic • New demand growing consistently • More difficult to manage • Regulated by NOP with high entry hurdles • Price and yields conducive to profit • Fewer international competitors in some products Gary Reding, Langeland Farms, Inc.
  102. 102. Evolution of Langeland • 1983 Farm Crisis - bought out brother-in-law • 1985-1995 seed business growth • 1992 First food grade soybeans to Japan • 1996 First GMO soybeans to farmers, seed business consolidation • 1998 First black beans grown & hog crisis, sold sows & contract fed hogs • 1999 First organic popcorn grown Gary Reding, Langeland Farms, Inc.
  103. 103. Evolution cont. • 2000 Japanese decided in Spring not to continue the food grade program (Japanese Yen crashed.) Rented out hog facilities. • 2000 Started converting 300 acres to grass. • 2002 Farm Program rewritten so we could not grow black beans anymore. • 2002 Started contracting of organic popcorn & custom grazing cattle. • 2003 Started raising organic popcorn & soybeans on larger scale. Gary Reding, Langeland Farms, Inc.
  104. 104. Many studies have shown that organic farming systems can produce high yields
  105. 105. 236 studies with valid matched comparisons of 11 nutrients. The organic foods within these matched pairs were nutritionally superior in 145 matched pairs, or in 61% of the cases, while the conventional foods were more nutrient dense in 87 matched pairs, or 37%.
  106. 106. Comparisons of potassium, phosphorus, and total protein levels accounted for over 75% of the 87 cases in which the conventional samples were nutritionally superior. American diets are rarely deficient in K, P or protein. In contrast, organic samples contained higher levels of polyphenols and antioxidants in ~ 75% of the 59 studies evaluating these compounds. Increasing intake of these phytonutrients is likely to improve public health in the US as American diets contain less than one-half of recommended levels.
  107. 107.
  108. 108. $ 0.5 billion in IL (only ~5% IL farm products)
  109. 109. 0.5% in the US and <0.1% in IL
  110. 110. Mostly Australia ~ 75 million acres worldwide
  111. 111. What are these crazy people doing?
  112. 112. Special thanks to Joe Heckman for compiling the primary source of historical information for this presentation