Differing Perspectives in Agriculture

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Photo from WIU/Allison Organic Research Farm
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Cultivation at WIU/Allison Organic Research Farm
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Oat Harvest at WIU/Allison Organic Research Farm

Picture this: you’re standing on the edge of a young corn field and you see fresh, dark soil. Growing out of that soil are thousands of beautifully green and thriving plants. Can you tell me if this field is organic or conventional?

If you ask google what organic agriculture is, you’ll get this answer: “Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems, and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity, and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects.” That sounds a lot like every farm I’ve been to – organic or not.

Now let’s take a look at conventional agriculture: “Conventional farming, also known as industrial agriculture, refers to farming systems which include the use of synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and other continual inputs, genetically modified organisms, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, heavy irrigation, intensive tillage, etc.”

You may argue that non-organic farms do use inputs with adverse effects, but I don’t believe that the goal of any farmer is to do anything negative. In my experience, it’s been quite the opposite! There’s a strong desire among all farmers to take care of their resources.

That being said, I think there’s a lot to gain from looking at agriculture from both angles. Many conventional farmers have misconceptions about organic agriculture, and vice versa. There’s too much of that to delve into right now, but the point is that no one person has all the answers.

According to the USDA, in 2011 there were almost 13,000 certified organic farms in the United States. This number is constantly growing along with the rising consumer demand for organic products. To me, this says that there is definitely a need for organic agriculture in today’s society. Many people are becoming more and more mindful of the products they buy. Whether or not these consumers have all the facts about how everything is produced is another story.

In my opinion, there is a clear need for both organic and conventional agriculture. Who’s to say what methods are the best? At this point, I don’t think anyone has the perfect solution. There tends to be a bit of tension between organic farmers and conventional farmers and it needs to stop. I believe that all types of agriculturalists should be working together to improve overall efficiency, environmental stewardship, and the biggest issue: consumer knowledge.

Why can’t all forms of agriculture live together in happiness?

 

 

 

img_0567My name is Kacie Priebe and I come from a little town in Western Illinois called Nauvoo. I’m currently a senior studying Agriculture Education. In my time at WIU, I’ve been so lucky to work on our most delightful organic research farm while also being involved in several other on-campus organizations. Thank you for reading my blog!

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2 thoughts on “Differing Perspectives in Agriculture

  1. SpencerS

    As far as knowledge of agriculture, it needs to go two ways. Farmers need to work on educating and advocating what they do. However, consumers should not be quick to judge farming practices and need to talk to farmers about what they do.

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  2. rachsamp2

    I couldn’t have said it better myself, Kacie. Being raised on a conventional farm, naturally I was opposed to organic farming. I did not like how the media portrayed conventional farming to be a sin and organic alternatives being the only way to go. After working at the WIU Allison Organic Research Farm, just like you, I too realized that there are a lot of great attributes to organic farming. Growing cover crops instead of tilling seems like a great way to break up soil compaction while adding nutrients back into the soil, and I think a reduction in the amount of chemicals applied to farm fields will help reduce runoff. But I also think there are many wonderful qualities of conventional farming, and I agree with you that there is room in this world for both farming practices. Great job Kacie, I really enjoyed reading your post.

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