The Cost To Go Organic

December 20, 2018Diana Lengerson

The Cost To Go Organic

As the world moves continually towards healthier, organic eating habits, consumers congratulate themselves on food choices that support this movement. Organic meats, grains, and produce are readily available at local markets and paying a little extra for these healthy alternatives is no longer exclusive to the wealthy shopper or discerning chef. Contrary to what many people may think, however, it isn’t just a quick and easy change for a farmer to go from conventional to organic. The higher price is no help during the transition years of fewer crops, weed control, and marketing concerns. When you pick up your next organic item, think a little deeper into just how that product made it into your hands. Perhaps the extra pennies you spend won’t seem so extravagant.

The Time of Transition

Look into the process of moving from conventional to organic with regard to farms and agriculture and the word transition becomes the center of each discussion. What is this transition? Well, for starters it’s a required three-year process during which time the farmer changes his farming practices to prepare the land to become completely organic-bearing. This is a requirement to achieve the appropriate USDA certification. During this transition, the farmer must fully use organic procedures, yet not reap the benefits of higher prices for these crops. Additionally, because the use of common pesticides and weed control cannot be used, his crop is considerably less, causing a huge financial burden if not planned for and expected. Any Agriculture loans the farmer has taken out to help him through this difficult phase may help pay for new equipment needed, staffing requirements, and overall production expenses. The good news about this transitional phase is that during the third year, depending on when the last time synthetic chemicals had been applied, the farmer may be able to profit from that year’s organic crop.

The Battle Of the Weeds

During the dreaded three year transition, another inconvenient truth is the up-cropping of weeds. The farmer has to turn to less conventional and purely natural methods to manage these adversaries and it takes time to get them under control again. Interestingly, this actually affects the farmer socially as well. As the weeds naturally begin to pop up, they become visibly offensive his neighbors who are quick to criticize his seeming lack of weed control.

However, if he can learn to put up with a few weeds and disapproving looks in return for developing a healthy ecosystem, in the long run, there will be fewer destructive insects and weeds. Couple this with healthier crops for more profit and it’s a victory for everyone. Additionally, his growing soil becomes softer and more beneficial as good insects and birds are drawn to the healthier ground. Even the weeds become less of an enemy and more of a cohabitator.

The Extra Pieces

As you can probably imagine, a farmer who works with his hands daily in the soil is more concerned with production rather than marketing or paperwork. However, his new organic plans find him needing to establish new connections to sell his organic wares. Unless he is comfortable networking, this could be a huge barrier for him to get his goods out on the market. Additionally, the constant documentation required to keep his USDA certification up is another part of his day that he is not using his talents to grow crops.

Ultimately, if the farmer can set his mind that profit isn’t the only thing making the change to organic worthwhile, he may be able to endure the hardships that come along with the transition. Also, knowing the ground is healing while dealing with the weeds, and realizing he is making a difference in the world may help him look past the unsightly weeds. So the next time you buy organic, take a moment to appreciate all it took for you to have that option in the first place.

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