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Farm Babe: Why I no longer buy organic

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I used to be a huge fan of organics. In fact, it was all I purchased.

It wasn’t until I started talking with actual organic professors and (larger-scale) farmers when I started learning the real truth about agricultural production, straight from the horses mouth. Always go to the source!

It was then when I started learning about how organic farming actually does use pesticides and started questioning marketing tactics like this, from corporations such as Stonyfield Organic.

This statement made by Stonyfield is extremely misleading, and I honestly wonder how they can even legally get away with this. As a simple numbers comparison, the Organic Materials Review Institute says that there are more than 900 different genetic substances — including about two dozen synthetic ones — approved for use in organic production. Those fertilizers, pesticides, livestock additives, and other substances are part of more than 6,000 branded products used in the National Organic Program (here is the list).

But the fact that organic uses pesticides sometimes isn’t a bad thing. Pest pressure is a very real part of farming, and it’s time we really educate people on how food is produced and about all the challenges we face with disease, insects, weeds, weather, and more. There’s a reason why pesticides have been used in agriculture for thousands of years. Without them, it’s estimated than an average of 40 percent of the worlds food production would be lost. We’d have more hungry people, more deforestation, and use more land and resources.

I have plenty of organic farming friends. I attend organic farming conferences and believe organic can offer some benefits, particularly on a small scale. It’s important to celebrate all farmers regardless of size or label — anyone can do a good job. But this marketing and lying nonsense NEEDS to end. It hurts trust in the entire industry. It harms integrity, it makes people unnecessarily fear their food.

It’s true that sometimes organic farms do not use pesticides. But this is also true of non-organic farms. Any farmer, regardless of size or label, wants to use as little chemical as possible, not least of which that they’re expensive and time-consuming to use, among other reasons. Really what it boils down to is pest pressure, economies of scale, climate, etc. There are some natural and organic farming practices in place that are quite beneficial, but non-organic farmers can also utilize those exact same practices and, often times, they do.

Take our farm for example. We use cover crops, no-till farming, and crop rotation. We do soil testing, and a good percentage of our cropland receives no pesticide spray. We are not organic but have earned awards for “farmers of the year” in soil and water conservation.

Stonyfield Organic has banned thousands of people from their social media who have pointed out that organic does not mean “pesticide free.“ And taking that kind of action is not OK. Check out the hashtags #bannedbystonyfield #blockedbystonyfield #silencedbystonyfield and the Facebook group The Banned Consumer to see what I’m talking about.

With marketing tactics like this, I now refuse to buy anything that says “organic” on it. Companies like Stonyfield do more harm than good, and it backfires. It’s too bad. I’m sure it’s the small organic farmers who suffer the most, and the time and money they spend to be certified is nothing to scoff at.

Stonyfield and the like … just stop. Sell your product based on #factsnotfear and talk about what you do RIGHT. Don’t lie or throw competitors under the bus. End the “us vs them.” It hurts everyone and affects consumer trust across our entire industry. Farmers are having a tough couple of years … don’t make it harder for them.

 

Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based farmer, public speaker, and writer, who lives and works with her boyfriend on their farm, which consists of row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of AGDAILY. Comments on this article reflect the sole opinions of their writers.
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