Farmers mentor farmers to make the transition to organic more manageable
Published: October 4, 2018
Category: Organic News, The Organic & Non-GMO Report Newsletter
In rural Iowa, George and Patti Naylor are a rarity—organic farmers in a landscape dominated by corn and soybeans.
George Naylor, a strong voice against GMOs and a former Sierra Club member, has been growing non-GMO corn and soybeans on his family farm in Churdan since 1976. But five years ago, he and his wife, Patti, transitioned 90 of their 420 acres to organic. They harvested their first crop of organic soybeans last year and planted organic corn and soybeans this season.
Despite the promise of strong profits growing organic, the high costs of transitioning conventional land and purchasing new equipment can be a nonstarter for many farmers.
“Growing organic is an entirely different business model,” said Patti Naylor. “Corn and soybean farmers are working in a system that encourages them to have the greatest yield they can get from their land. Prices for crops are very low, so farmers have to produce as much as they possibly can to make the money they need for next year. With organic, farmers have to learn an entirely new system of inputs and outputs.”
Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows a 42 percent increase in organic farms from 2008 to 2015 in Iowa. Still, the roughly 670 certified organic farms as of 2015 represent less than one percent of all the farms in the state.
Corn and soybean farms need big yields to make money in a heavily subsidized system. The majority of research, technology, machinery and markets is geared toward this approach. When farmers transition to organic, they are often left to figure out how to get started and generate income on their own.
Now, farmer-to-farmer mentorship and support networks are helping make the daunting process more manageable.
Source: In Good Tilth
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