TRANSITIONING TO ORGANIC FARMING

Reposted from CommonGround. If you are interested in connecting with women and moms who are growing your food, you must check them out!

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Organic farming has been growing in popularity over the past years, and volunteer Sondra Pierce is currently in the process of transitioning her alfalfa farm from conventional to organic.

“When we were researching into going organic we noticed that organic alfalfa sold for $5-10 higher a bale,” said Pierce. “We decided to supply the demand for organic alfalfa in our area which helped increase our ending profits. I’m sure that is the reason why most farmers choose to transition into organic, because of the higher profits.”

According to Boulder County, Pierce’s home county in Colorado, the county is in the process of having at least 20 percent of the county’s farm area organic by 2020. Pierce says she will like make more of a profit from growing organic alfalfa than conventional because of the higher demand for organic alfalfa in the area.

While there are many misconceptions on the idea of organic farming, Pierce points out that there are a lot of similarities between organic and conventional farming.

“Many people assume when you are organic you don’t use pesticides or fertilizers. Many also assume organic farmers use completely different practices than conventional farming. What might surprise people to learn is that organic farmers do use pesticides, fertilizers and many of the same practices as conventional farmers. We just have to use different products. There are hundreds of organic pesticides that we can choose from along with fertilizers. And we use many of the same tools on our conventional farm that we do on our organic farm. We just have to spray them down with hot water before using them in the organic fields.”

Pierce, just like many other farmers in Boulder County, Colorado, is transitioning to organic farming practices due to the higher demand from consumers as well as many of the local organic dairy farms purchasing organic alfalfa from local alfalfa farmers like Pierce in order to have their milk be considered organic.

“We currently rent most of our land from the Boulder County Parks and Open Spaces, which is behind the plan to have 20 percent of the county organic by 2020. We did receive an incentive for transitioning to organic farming from Boulder County. We were able to get a break in our rent payment for the land we farm on as well as a new center pivot from the Boulder County Parks and Open Spaces for deciding to change our farm into organic.”

Pierce stated that the higher demand in organic milk has ultimately increased the demand of organic alfalfa in the area that she farms. The higher profits from organic alfalfa than from conventional alfalfa made it a smart decision to transition her farm.

“We looked into the profit differences and knew that becoming an organic farm operation would be in the best interest for our family. But one interesting thing that we have noticed while transitioning our farm to organic is that our carbon footprint is actually bigger than what it was when we were conventional. We used to only make three tills through the fields to keep weeds down, but now, as we transition to organic, we make somewhere between nine to 10 passes. This really surprised me.”

While there have been a few headaches, the profits due to the premiums that consumers are willing to pay for organic outweigh it all for Pierce. “My family means a lot to me, and if there is a way for me to profit and still provide a safe, quality product, I will do it,” said Pierce.

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