Chuck Knierim, left, is the co-owner of Wildrose Farm in Breezy Point, and he presented last weeks Crosslake Chautauqua program. His presentation focused on organic farming, and more specifically the history, economics and health aspects of organic farming.
Organic. It's a trend that has been sweeping the nation and changing the products people buy, the clothes they wear and the food they eat.
But this "new" trend is anything but new, said Chuck Knierim, organic farmer and co-owner of Wildrose Farm who spoke at the Crosslake Chautauqua program Wednesday, May 12.
"Organic farming was here first. Two generations ago farms were all family operations, and they were multi-operational. It was a wonderful, sustainable system," Knierim said.
Today, he said, organic farmers are trying to breathe new life into an old idea.
"We're trying to replicate an old system, but use new technology," Knierim said.
Chemical, commodity-based agriculture is the way most foods people consume are produced, and Knierim emphasized that he wasn't trying to downgrade that type of farming in any way.
"Farmers who make a living working the land and the soil is a good thing," Knierim said.
But he does believe commodity-based farming that is dependent on chemicals is not going to be sustainable in the long run.
"The soil has become dependent on chemicals and petroleum, and it has evolved into something that I don't think anyone could have guessed at the beginning. The soil has become like an addict who always needs more and more to get their fix," Knierim said.
The important thing, he said, is that more and more people are looking at different options for farming. Organic farming is increasing at a steady rate of 10 to 15 percent each year.
One of the best things about organic farming, Knierim said, is that it brings producer and consumer back together and takes out a bunch of stuff in the middle.
"A lot of the time when a person makes a choice to buy organic, the best way to do it is to develop a relationship with a farmer. It's face to face, and you can see that land where the produce is grown or the chickens run around," Knierim said.
And what about organic foods being more expensive than foods grown in commodity-based agriculture, many audience members asked.
Knierim said that when you really take a hard look at the various costs, buying organic isn't any more expensive than buying commodity-based foods.
Commodity-based farms receive large subsidies from the federal government, which taxpayers foot the bill for, and organic farmers do not, he said.
Knierim urged audience members to consider the environmental and ecological costs of commodity-based agriculture. Although there are many studies with conflicting reports, Knierim firmly believes organically grown food is healthier for the people consuming it.
"So at the end of the day, I don't think that commodity-based farming is less expensive than organic farming," he said.
For those looking to buy organic, Knierim suggests going to local food co-ops or farmers markets.
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