As a mother, I am particularly protective of my choice on how to feed my family. Aren’t you? I’ve made nutritional choices for my daughter since the day she was conceived and slowly turned those over to her as she learned the value of nutrition. I don’t need any government agency, farmer or media limiting my choices on my family’s plate. You likely feel the same about your choices.
Farmers and ranchers also value choice. This is called freedom to operate; the ability to make decisions best suited for their family, land, and animals. And since independence is one of the strongest traits amongst farmers and ranchers, we don’t take kindly to people telling us how to take care of our land or animals.
An organic farm could have 1,100 acres of land, raise seed for a company, and grow 7,000 conventionally raised hogs annually. Jon and Carolyn Olson from Minnesota have a unique operation between their certified organic grains and conventionally raised hogs. Carolyn is quite vocal in her support of ALL kinds of agriculture. “I believe that every farmer needs to find what works for them and their farm. Organic agriculture is not for everyone, and neither is dairy farming, or pig farming, or vegetable growing. Diversity in agriculture should be celebrated.”
“When we decided to transition to organic, part of our conversations revolved around the pig barns. Should we continue to finish pigs conventionally? We didn’t have the pasture space or the proper barn style to raise pigs organically, and we knew we needed a source of animal manure for our crops, so we made the decision to continue finishing pigs as we always have.”
Matt and Anne Burkholder in Nebraska are another couple exemplifying both choice on the farm and on the food plate. “We have a diversified farm in order to supply a variety of markets and customers. Historically, our farm was 100 percent traditional crops but we got into the organic markets in 2006. Organic farming, if managed well, can bring in quite a bit more profit with a market that is not typically as volatile as conventional markets because it is a niche market. They each come with a set of positives and negatives. Using a blend of organic and conventional on our farm allows us to diversify to best meet a variety of challenges. Judiciously using resources is important to us and we can optimize that by growing a blend of both traditional and organic crops.”
Finding the right type of operation is different for every farmer and depends on their skillset, available resources, market, type of land and personal values. One is not right and the other wrong.
Make your choices based on your own standards – just as farmers make those choices for their business.
Read more at Food Truths from Farm to Table to arm yourself with 25 truths you urgently need to know about food so you can shop without guilt, confusion, or judgment. A new book, Food Bullying, releases November 5 to upend the way you think about eating choices.