Chalk one up for growing organic

alan haighApril 20, 2013

Maybe this is more about how the media covers the subject, but I thought this would stir up some more exciting silliness.

Real scientist may be a bit annoyed. Obviously if the produce wasn't raised in the same kind of soil it would contain different nutrients which would have nothing to do with what was sprayed on the plants.

I have read of research showing that conventional methods, over time, reduce vitamin content of produce due to mineral depletion of soils- something that could be corrected without using organic pest control. .

At any rate, it seems to me that this is what the media does with research- create entertainment without serious analysis as various studies swing from one indication to another before a concensus is finally drawn when enough data is in. By that point the public is so confused they don't believe anything or settle on the conclusion that best suits their interest.

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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Link is no good here. But it is from the NY Times so it must be true-NOT!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 7:20AM
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alan haigh

Funny, worked last time. Check NYTIMES health section today. Maybe someone else can figure out how to link it here.

Yeah, if it's in the NY Times it must be all fiction, brilliant!

The NY Post isn't even ALL fiction. Just because you don't believe in a papers editorial positions is no reason to dismiss all of their journalism.

I don't write off the Wall Street Journal- I just don't often agree with their editorials. They have many interesting and factual articles as does the NY Times.

This is the kind of us vs them thinking that is stalling this country right now.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 7:37AM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

"This is the kind of us vs. them thinking that is stalling this country right now. "

Well I'm in the medical field, and anything that ever happened in our hospital, the papers got it wrong. Not even once did they state what happened correctly. After 25 years of this I come to realize they are all fiction. It's about selling papers, not the news. It has nothing to do with left or right, that is your bias, not mine.

I have often seen studies quoted, and they present the study as if it was say pro green beans, when in fact the study, if actually read is anti green beans. This happens so much it is laughable. I'm not sure if their is an agenda or just pure incompetence? As a scientist it really offends me what is reported as science, when it is no such thing. I'm disgusted with it all.

This post was edited by Drew51 on Sat, Apr 20, 13 at 8:19

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 7:49AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


Before you start throwing around words like "brilliant" in an effort to denigrate a fellow poster perhaps you should learn how to post a link. Posting a link is very easy.....a task both my 6 year old niece and 92 year old grandmother can accomplish. Just a suggestion:)

Stanford University studied 4 decades of research and concluded that organic is nothing but a marketing ploy to get the weak minded to fork out extra money for the same items.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 8:38AM
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alan haigh

Drew, that's interesting, the NY times wrote articles about your hospital? You specifically cited the NY Times- not newspapers in general. My inference seems logical, but I stand corrected. You were talking about every newspaper in the country.

There is incompetence in every field and good and poor journalism. I've never had a garden writer get my quotes straight in interviews I've provided them either- but that tends to be a different kind of writing.

I think people don't hear literally and people also often think their words are communicating more precisely than they are.
This is demonstrated by your initial statement- you blamed me for not understanding you but I blamed you for not making your statement clear.

Total disgust with the entire journalistic profession seems like another inaccurate perception. Nothing is ever perfect. I agree that the way news media covers research is generally pathetic, however. Here the Times makes it clear that this research is extremely preliminary.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 8:39AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

I saw that article and found it lacking. I expect that either the soil or some other uncontrolled variable in the study led to the results, not the chemicals. Its great that a 15-year old thought of the study, but its hard to treat their results as professional-level science. Since the story fit the Times' viewpoint it got through in spite of the weak science. I do hope someone with more expertise repeats the study.

All papers are biased, they always were and they always will be. On the other hand most of the information in most papers is reasonably accurate. I'm sure there really is such a girl, she really did the studies, and she probably did not intentionally fudge the results.


    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 9:08AM
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I think its pretty simple. The nutrient value of your food depends on the amounts of nutrients available in the soil. The real question is: Would there be a difference between the amounts of nutrients in an average farmers field or an organic farm?

"). The continued lack
of required nutrient replenishment of nutrient depleted soils as well as
nutrient losses through wind and water erosion are not only exacerbating soil degradation, but also jeopardizing agricultural sustainability in
these regions (Ayoub, 1999; Sheldrick et al., 2002)."

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 9:15AM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

The Stanford study that you mentioned, bamboo, does a good job of questioning common assumptions about organic foods. Nonetheless, it's received a good bit of criticism (fair and well deserved criticism, in my mind). For example. I've linked to a short piece from the Environmental Health Perspectives journal that reveals serious shortcomings in how they evaluated pesticide risk and exposure.

Here is a link that might be useful: Organic Food Conclusions Don’t Tell the Whole Story

This post was edited by shazaam on Sat, Apr 20, 13 at 10:51

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 10:29AM
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alan haigh

BR, let Drew stand up for himself- he's more than capable. You are beginning to seem to be intent on fighting me and not just my ideas- why not just stay away from my topics and save our energy for something more constructive. Better we correspond about fruit plants only, I think.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 10:49AM
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alan haigh

Yes I am computer illiterate but I did come up with an article that, unless you think Scientific American is another unreliable news source, pretty much confirms what's being said here.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 11:01AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


And once again you post a bad link............ (rolls eyes).

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 11:48AM
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alan haigh

My computer got me to it from copying the link I posted. The previous one did not work but this one should. My son also rolls his eyes at my computer ineptitude.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 12:40PM
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I posted the same link in my rssponse. It should work

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 12:53PM
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This forum is going downhill! There is a forum on organic gardening that touches on this topic, ad nauseum.

Is is because of the late spring that folks are arguing about people's posting ability and reading comprehension?

Even though it's only 36 degrees and breezy, I'm going to bundle up and go prune some grapes. Then I'm going to cut the mouse damage out of the blackberries and see what's left. Y'all are welcome to join me.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 12:59PM
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alan haigh

Camp, the reason I engage in this is as a break from that. When I'm not here all I'm doing is pruning, grafting, planting, spraying and worst of all sending out contracts and bills to do more of it.

The article I posted wasn't so much to begin a debate on organics as much as to post an amusing article. I think the response has been more about the article and research itself than the pluses and minuses of organic orthodoxy.

I do apologize for the tone of exchanges between BR and myself, but it's a bit like a family argument with us, and does go on ad nauseum.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 2:13PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


The reason your first link didn't work was because (for some reason) when you copy and pasted, your computer put some extra characters in the address, which messed up the link.

The following link works: -fly/

But this one does not: -fly/?ref=health

Notice the extra characters at the end and the extra space b/t "fruit -fly" I don't know why computers will add extra characters that aren't really in the address when using copy/paste, but they sometimes do.

I suspect this is why you've had such difficulty posting links as "Optional Link URL" on Gardenweb in the past. The copy/paste function is not copying the address as it appears, so that when you copy and paste, it doesn't work. All this time, it's not that you've been computer inept, it's your computer's been out to get you :-)

The second link doesn't work for the same reason. Both you and Canadian's computer put an extra space in the word "nutrition" in the web address. The following link should work: trition-loss

To use the handy "Optional Link URL" in your responses on Gardenweb, you have the make sure what you paste in "Optional Link URL" is exactly the same as the actual web address, which means you may not be able to copy and paste.

You can always check to see if the link works in your message preview. It sounds like they links you posted worked on your computer. If so, your browser seems to know what to do with the added characters, but evidently not all browsers know what to do with the extra characters.

This post was edited by olpea on Sat, Apr 20, 13 at 15:16

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 3:12PM
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alan haigh

Thank you Olpea, but I am relatively inept with computers. I'm better out of doors.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 3:24PM
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Dont worry hm i. Still lear ing my cellphone

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 4:33PM
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alan haigh

Well, we'll just go to Olpea for instruction, he seems a man with adequate patience even to deal with me and sharp as a tack. My son certainly doesn't have the patience to lead me through computer tutorials and the sucker owes me.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 6:06PM
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Hey Harvestman, how did your trial with going organic work out? Surely in your 25 years of bending and experimenting, you have given it a shot on at least one tree for a week or two. It's been working fine for me so far. I started out that way and have stuck with it.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 12:02AM
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No spaces allowed in links. Simply proof-read before posting.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 12:26AM
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alan haigh

Mr. Clint, I offer my customers an organic program using Surround, oil and sulfur. Trees and apples coated with difficult to remove white powder don't usually appeal to them on their immaculate landscapes and on wet years apples are extremely difficult to keep foliage healthy but with resistant varieties it works reasonably well.

Stone fruit is also very difficult to protect from brown rot. It's too expensive to keep making applications after a rain or two.

Just the basic program to protect apples is about twice as expensive as my more common synthetic program. Having a licensed sprayer coming from off property is quite pricey.

I forgot to tell the man I have doing it not to spray some espaliers against brick walls one time and 4 years later the walls are still stained white behind the pears. Somehow it looks OK and the client didn't ask me to power wash it off.

At least you don't have to worry much about neighborhood kids stealing fruit- it looks like it's covered with the worst pesticide imaginable and is as hard to remove as sooty blotch.

I do enjoy getting fruit without any poison but prefer getting a lot more fruit with a lot less work. If I had only one orchard to defend, even on the weekend, it would be much more practical. I don't discourage others going that route at all.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 6:16AM
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I think part of going organic (or I guess sustainable) would be to use trees that require less care.

In the "ultiple trees in one hole" thread, it was discussed that certain trees (and care methods) work better depending on climate. Trees that are suceptable to rot and fungus, dont need as much work in the west as the east, and dry climate trees, take more work in the east as well.

The only problem with that (and im guilty of this as well) is that we want fruits that are hard to grow. At least in the east there are many breeding programs and orchards to see what needs more work then most; here I dont have such a luxury, besides some 100 year old macintosh.

It also depends how in depth you go. Some people go as far as only growing fruit trees on their own roots, without any pruning (sepp holtzer) and his trees do wonderfully. He is also growing at liek 4000m elevation (again a different situation then continental climates).

It becomes much more practical when you can get as many resources on site as possible. The only thing is, this usually requires a decent sized yard, or a few acres. This will lower costs as well, but again it depends on design. You will do more work growing apples or pears in a moist climate then a drier one, if only due to diseases.

Do you only do what your clients ask, or do you try to push for other ways, for instance, cover crops and mulch over synthetic ferts or neem and hort. oil instead of chemicals?

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 7:04AM
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alan haigh

I don't think sustainable and organic are synonymous. It may likely turn out that synthetics make sustainability much more efficient and productive- but this argument could go on forever.

Sustainability methods can only be evaluated over a very long period of time and I realize the difficulties with many of the current synthetic interventions (resistance development, environmental degradation, etc) but that does not categoriically exclude them from sustainable solutions.

Similarly, organic methods do not in any way assure sustainability, particularly in the production of annual grains and legumes, where we loose huge amounts of topsoil every year in organic production methods. Herbicide treated untilled soil is more stable than mechanically churned soil.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 7:28AM
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All good points, and I agree, the discussion on such can go on forever (probably why its so interesting IMO).

It would also depend on the method of sustanable/organic growing. Many sustainable methods abhor chemicals due to what they can do to the soil life and top soil. There are many "no till" methods, one of which I am trying. I would agree that its possible its the no till which helps the soil, moreso then not using synthetics.

Also, most sustainable methods stress the importance of cover crops for protection and some soil building. IT makes much more sense to use manure in your veggie beds, while using less work to fertilize the larger areas (orchard/food forest)

I have found that many organic farms grow food the same general way as regular farms, just dont use chemicals (as in fert and many sprays). Many seem to even till, so again, I would agree that organic doesnt always mean sustainable - but I would say sustainable would more than likely mean using organic methods, unless other methods dont work. Sometimes the use of less intensive "non organic" methods may help. IF they didnt work at all, then we wouldnt use them.

I guess I was using them to separate "synthetic" from "non synthetic" forms in a general sense. We do know what current large scale methods of farming can do to the environment, and there are too few examples of sustainable farms in North America (australia is another matter)

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 8:01AM
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alan haigh

Well before the advent of modern chemistry civilizations rose and fell based on the loss of topsoil when growing grains. It is difficult to grow annual crops and hold on to this stuff and human populations are most dependent on calories derived from annual plants.

Growing food from trees works a lot better at holding onto soil.

I think there are a lot of people involved in the "sustainable" movement that are pretty much living in a faith based reality, but these are issues that are being studied and worked on scientifically.

Long term, modern chemistry will continue to be required for pest control and other aspects of food production, IMO, including genetic engineering to speed up the process of putting greater adaptability into food plants. The earth is probably changing too fast for things to go any other way and avoid mass starvation in coming decades.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 8:50AM
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I would at least agree that climate change, long and/or short term has ended many civs. I also agree it can be hard to not eat annuals. It also depends on what you yourself would say annuals are. We both know the accepted definition, but something that can self seed, and stay true to type can be thought of as a perennial (Self seeding annuals). One could also think that a garden consisting only of annuals would be more of a problem, then some sort of a plant community, using no till methods/cover crops/soil building plants would.

Yes, there are of course extremeists on ever side of any spectrum. Natural news is horribly bias and a lot of organic/sustainable advocates use that site as a source. The best thing is, over the last 20 or so years there has been an explosion of sustainable farms and homesteads.

You would also be surprised at how fast ecology can adapt to changing climate. There are already many species expanding their range north, or up mountain sides. I would agree that the situation isnt the best, but the problem is that food is seen as a business, rather than necassity.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 11:07AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

Back on the subject of posting links for a moment. In my last post, I posted links that should work, but it's Gardenweb that is adding the spaces. I know for a fact, those links worked before I hit the "Submit" button. I checked them a couple different times in the "Preview" window.

I don't know why Gardenweb is adding the a space in the web addresses, but that's what's going on. Even though the link is correct in the "Preview", it changes once it's posted on this site.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 12:38PM
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Regarding links, I just use straight html. Works like a charm. :)

I disagree with about 90% of the conversation so far regarding sustainability, the use of chemicals and going organic. There is also a missing piece of the discussion, and that is the continued use of monoculture. Planting Russet Potatoes, and the same GMO corn year after year is a recipe for more chemicals and crop failures. The Irish potato famine is a real world example of the problems with monoculture.

There is much more "faith and hope" with long term chemical use than there is with growing organically. If you are even moderately anti-corporate you are almost certain to be anti-agrichem as well.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 4:42PM
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Hi folks :).

I am surprised at the idea of using any sprays, organic or not, on fruit. Is this a regional issue?

I am trying out sulfur on 1/4 of a grape vine this year, as that quarter is in an area with poor air circulation that I can't do much about, so it gets powdery mildew. The remainder of the same vine does fine.

This is the only example I can think of where I have used anything other than compost on a fruit plant. The area where I live is full of untended fruit trees, vines, and canes in vacant lots that produce prodigiously. That just seems normal to me.

Partly this might be a tolerance issue. My apples don't have scab or worms, but I harvest from other trees that do. They don't bother me.

I see the same thing on the vegie forum -- people talking about insect and disease as major problems in home gardens. Here, that is so rare, and people generally handle it by changing their cultivation methods. They grow something different, they increase or decrease watering, they start seeds of vulnerable plants indoors, etc.

We just don't seem to have a culture out here of seeking spray-on solutions. What I can't figure out is whether that is because people elsewhere have bigger problems. Any insights?

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 9:21PM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

Where ARE you, Nila? I ask because I want to move there... :) Joking aside, to a certain extent I agree that there's a tolerance issue involved. We've come to expect our food to be perfect and unblemished, especially now that so many of us have no connection to agriculture. Masanobu Fukuoka does a splendid job of dissecting this preference in The One Straw Revolution.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 9:37PM
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"The Irish potato famine is a real world example of the problems with monoculture. "

The potato famine was a good example of a devastating disease where there was no means of control. We could argue about whether it is a good example of losses that can be triggered by monoculture. There were no potato varieties available in the 1840's that were significantly tolerant to late blight. The Lumpers variety that was associated with the potato famine just happened to be the one that was most widely grown. My argument would be that it was not from monoculture of a single variety, but rather from over-reliance on a single species to provide more than 70% of the edible food in an entire country.

Monoculture as practiced today does not normally result in devastating crop losses. It is more of an insidious spectrum of losses such as corn wireworms reaching damaging populations in soil that is monocropped to corn. Maize blight in the 1970's that was linked to type T cytoplasm. Pecan scab is a plant disease to which Stuart pecan was once highly resistant. Over a period of about 30 years as millions of Stuart trees were planted, scab adapted so that today Stuart is very scab susceptible. A variant of corn rust devastated maize crops in Africa for several years until it was brought under control by growers in Africa selecting and growing only the rust resistant survivor plants. There are countless other examples all linked to large scale agriculture. There will continue to be problems as long as we rely on commercial scale agriculture to produce food.

Here are most of the crops we rely on to produce food and fiber in the world today. We rely on just 10 of these crops to produce over 90% of the food we eat.

Cereals: Sugar cane, Maize, Rice, Wheat, Barley, Sorghum

Legumes: Beans, Peanuts, Soybeans, Peas, Cowpeas, Lentils

Solanums: Potatoes, Tomatoes, Eggplant, Peppers

Brassicas: Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Rapeseed, Turnip, Rutabaga, Collards, Brussel Sprouts

Curcurbits Squash & pumpkins, Melon, Watermelon, Cucumber

Other mixed species: Cassava, Sweetpotato, Onion, Garlic, Carrot, Celery, Okra

Amaranths: Beet, Sugar Beet, Quinoa, Spinach, Amaranth

Nut producing trees: Walnut, Pecan, Pinon, hazel, Chestnut, Brazilnut, Macadamia, Oil Palm, Olive

Fruit producing trees: Orange, Lemon, Grapefruit, Tangerine, Apple, Pear, Peach, Apricot, Almond, Plum

Woody vines: Grape, Muscadine, Kiwi

Fiber crops of various species: Cotton, Flax, Hemp


    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 10:11PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

"We just don't seem to have a culture out here of seeking spray-on solutions. What I can't figure out is whether that is because people elsewhere have bigger problems. Any insights?"

In this context, it's mostly a regional issue. The biggest proponents of organic production lie in areas where there is the least pest pressure. Typically as you go farther north there is less pest pressure and more proponents of organic culture. The arid west has very low pest pressure, and not consequentially the most organic production, and the strongest attitudes for it. It's natural for people to extrapolate their own individual experiences to a larger context.

The thought is, "I can grow organic, so everyone else should be able to as well. If they can't, it's because they aren't trying hard enough, or haven't tried the right things." Or, "If I can grow it organically on a small scale, anyone should be able to do it on a commercial scale."

It's the equivalent of me saying, "I don't need to irrigate my trees, so people in the driest parts of CA shouldn't need to either. If they would just mulch their trees like I do, they wouldn't have to irrigate."

Growing enough food to supplement ones family in the summer months (gardening) is very different than trying to grow enough food equivalent to feed lots of people for a whole year (farming).

Synthetics have been bashed continually, so there is a high demand for organic food everywhere in the U.S. It's not that only some people want organic food. The problem is it's very very difficult to grow organically on a commercial scale in a large part of the nation. Certainly the financial lure is there because organic prices are almost twice that of conventional. However, a lot of people have tried and a lot have failed. Last year was a good year to try it in the Midwest because we had hardly any rain in the summer, but that's not the norm.

Monoculture gets blamed for a lot for the failure of organic. However, relating it to fruit, it just doesn't take that many fruit trees to draw lots of pests in a humid area. Even then, there is little way other than monoculture, to farm commercially.

There are signs on the highways in KS that say something like, "1 Kansas farmer feeds 125 people." That doesn't mean anything to most people. In their mind - So What? But that number is significant. Because it's an approximate to the efficiency of all U.S. agriculture, it means the other 124 people can be productive in other areas of our society - building houses/roads, making computers, doctoring people, etc. It makes our whole nation more wealthy and more secure.

The amazing level of efficiency is the result of monoculture. As bad as it sounds, monoculture is conducive to mechanization, which is conducive to one person being able to grow enough food for one hundred or more.

As novel as it sounds to have very small diverse farms all over the U.S. producing our food, it would vastly decrease the efficiency of agriculture. Would one person even be able to feed 20 people, 10, 5? I don't know. I've yet to see any labor numbers on these supposed ideal small diverse farms.

One person growing enough food for 5 people doesn't impress me. An agricultural model like that means there is no one left to do the rest of the work that makes up our economy. Our standard of living would plummet in concert with our GDP, leaving us basically an agrarian nation.

Until we can find the technology to make organic work in broad U.S. climates, and more importantly, attain a reasonable amount of man hours/ton of food, small diverse organic farms will remain a niche market of very expensive food, while the real food will continue to be produced by monoculture, and the vast bulk of organic food will continue to be produced by large farms in CA.

Lastly, backyard fruit growers generally have lower pest pressure because they generally don't have a lot of fruit trees in the neighborhood (the exception being CA backyard fruit growing is more popular, and they have fewer pests in general). If everyone started trying to grow their own fruit in their backyard, you can be assured the neighborhood would have the same pest pressure experienced on a commercial level. Perhaps more so, since many neighbors wouldn't care for their trees, essentially becoming host sites for pests. I've seen this very phenomena in my own neighborhood. Many backyard fruit growers can actually be thankful their neighbors buy the bulk of their food from "monoculture industrial farming".

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 1:26AM
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alan haigh

The wise olpea said it and I've lived it.

My views were probably a lot like Mr. Clint when I lived in S. CA in the '60's-early '70's and when I first came east in the '70's. My cash crop was marijuana, which even here, has few pests besides those clever bipeds that can't be sprayed for and a couple of other larger mammals.

As a young man I actually believed that using anything manufactured by a chemical company was bad Karma and quite literally thought it would lead to bad fortune if I used anything synthetic on my crop.

But I came form CA with an addiction for picking tree ripened fruit from trees and not pristine fruit at all, just sound and tasty fruit- even an occasional worm is perfectly OK.

In Ca. my only college was in a conservatory studying music but when I decided to pursue legal horticulture I went back to school to study the science of it. Basic chemistry changed my idea about organic production and I came to feel that my previous prejudices against all man-made chemicals was more religious than logical. Just my personal conclusion- I'm not saying the only logical one.

I still use as few poisons as practical- a fraction of what commercial growers use around here but synthetics are a wonderful tool for me and I doubt I'd be able to make a living planting and tending home orchards if I didn't use them.

The product of the orchards I tend are not usually pristine and I've taught my wealthy clients how delicious fruit off the tree can be, even if it isn't always very attractive.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 5:56AM
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RE: Potato Famine

That is actually a good example. Climate change is blamed for starting the famine, which in turn is partially blamed for the plague.

The danger of monocultures, while being suceptable to diseases (just odds in numbers), it also means crop losses and famine are more common. Look at the US midwest last year, most of the crop is corn, and most of that crop is useless (the little that grew). Not to say all farmers rely on one crop, but the same could be said with even a few crops

The thing is, even with "the one straw revolution" or other books on that subject, you still do plant blocks of monoculture - even if it is surrounded by any other plants. In large scale gardens of this sort, you would still need big blocks of wheat/grains. The only difference is, these are cared for differently.

Also, those little urban farms in WWII fed a good portion of the country and the people over seas as well..

Even then, monoculture in itself isnt ALL bad. I could have a portion of forest made up almost entirely of say, birch. The difference is, along with birch putting up suckers (Clones), there is a wide genetic diversity in that one patch then in any farm, or any orchard even. I dont think that its because we grow apples persay, its because we grow the one same apple across the board.

Back in the 40s and 50s, we ate a different banana specie. Acuminata was concidered unsatisfactory, and was little known. Disease wiped out 95% of that species within a decade simply due to the fact all banana plants are clones. The probles with the parent, will always spread to the clones. We only eat acuminata because it was the best replacement that was resistant to the disease at the time. Now the same disease has mutated and is attacking acuminata.

The same happened to papaya in the 70s. The papaya we eat now is the only GMO fruit out there. The same problem is still here though. A single genetic line, spread across the globe.

Olpea - I dont think "organic" in itself will do anything to help us. In reality, the only difference between organic and non organic, is the no/low till methods, and no synthetic chemicals. The farming practices are still generally the same. Sure, this will definitely help, but it does nothing to save us in the long run. We dont have enough room to farm that way anymore.

The way I see it, and many others is that we can use the "Wasted space" in cities to help supplement out food, along with people willingly growing a portion in their yards. The problem is, we think of modern agriculture when it comes to growing food, even in our yards. Now a days, this just isnt the truth, and it never was. We are just more confertable walking to the store to pick up food, rather then taking a small amount of time to grow it. There are too many examples of urban gardens or homesteads these days to even assume you will be back there tilling all year.

Would it impress you if I were to be able to grow food for 5 people in a 500sq foot plot? Generally speaking, people need an acre of land to grow food for a year, in the commmon method of growing food. You can limit that amount, by using the vertical space. Why for instance, only grow corn, when you can take the same space and grow fruit and lumber trees, along with root crops, ground covers of herbs and strawberries, as well as your plot of corn. Sure, you will loose some corn, but you gain in many other foods.

Also HM, I never guessed you were a musician. The things you leard :D

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 7:42AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


I'm not at all opposed to people gardening or farming. In general I think both are good for the soul.

Gardening is an effective use of wasted space in cities and backyards. However, part of the reason it seems to work economically is that people don't count their labor involved, but view it as a recreational activity. It can rightly be viewed that way today largely because the efficiency of the rest of agriculture allows plenty of time for recreation. But I don't see it as a viable agricultural model for the nation.

I'm also all for vertical growing methods that make more productive use of land. As we've discussed before, land will continue to shrink as the population grows.

Victory gardens in WWII were helpful for the war effort, but they were far from organic (in the popular sense of the word) and used plenty of lead arsenate. Additionally the circumstances 70 years ago were different. There have been quite a few introduced pests since then.

I still maintain as the density of small agricultural plots in a city increases, so will the pest pressure. Ultimately all we are talking about is moving the agricultural production from the country to the city. The same problems/challenges will still exist. The difference is one is based on mechanization, the other on labor.

Here is a link that might be useful: 1942 - How to Keep Bugs Away from a Victory Garden

This post was edited by olpea on Mon, Apr 22, 13 at 10:37

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 10:16AM
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carolync1(z8/9 CA inland)

Makes me wonder why insecticides would affect fruit flies. Heh.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 10:54AM
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"I think part of going organic (or I guess sustainable) would be to use trees that require less care."

This is one of the many problems with the whole "organic movement". People try to shoehorn all sorts of crap into "organic" that has nothing to do with it.

Organic isn't necessarily sustainable, and chemical isn't necessarilly not sustainable. Organic is almost never less maintenance.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 11:40AM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

'I still maintain as the density of small agricultural plots in a city increases, so will the pest pressure.

Man that is so true, nobody grows around here, and I have little insect pressure. I sure hope that continues, it's awesome! At my cottage people do try to grow, and we have all kinds of problems. Only 35 miles and it is a different world. I also spend a lot of money with little return, it is more for fun, if it were a business I would be declaring bankruptcy.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 12:59PM
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alan haigh

Do you guys understand where your calories come from? Never heard of anyone using city gardens to grow wheat, soybeans or other actual staples either for our diet directly or to feed the animals we eat or consume the milk of. I know gardeners who do grow potatoes but none that actually get anywhere near the majority of their calories from what they grow.

Growing some fruit and vegetables in city plots is nice but it is not a substantial means of keeping people from starving.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 5:34PM
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Olpea - I see where you are coming from, but a lot of these assumptions (i guess we are all assuming here to a point :D ) are based on agriculture, rather then some of the less known, or less popular ways of growing food.

If i took a city lot, and planted a block of apple trees, that will indeed be no different then using farms, just as you put it, moving the problem elsewhere. Planting "natural spaces" in a form of horticulture (gardening rather then farming), or for example food forests, which is generally a permaculture method should make the pest problems less so. A lot of pest problems are thought by some to make pest problems worse, because they get rid of all insects (in the case of bugs) generally speaking. That means lacebugs and lady bugs, preditory wasps and the like as well. Of course, some places are just more susceptible to attack due to climates.

There is also less odds something will becoe a major problem in our yards, because we are there to see. IF there were community plots, or some food production brought into the city one could half assume, people would be there to see problems as well.

There is also the problem of birds. One cannot deny the effect they can have on farms, and in our yards, but they definitely have an unfair image. Birds usually eat bugs, at least partially. Habitat loss and lack of diversity displaces them so they come to the city which has food. This is a problem when you realize hundreds a hundred million or more birds a year are killed because of farmers complaining about loosing crops. Im not saying its counter productive to stop animals from eating crops but I dont see it being good for the long run, wiping out birds whom half their diet or more is insects.

There is one thing no one can really ignore or deny, and you have mentioned it; Land

An area the size of south america is used to farm our food. This isnt for cities, this was once forest for the most part. As our population grows, we have 2 choices; One being disregard the fact we need the forests and cut the down for farms, or find land elsewhere. The only problem with this, is that urban sprawl is a problem as well. There may not be room in the cities to grow a lot of food as land becomes scarce. There are people thinking of using buildings as hydroponic gardens (we cant grow out, but we can grow upwards).

I think we can both agree that not one single thing will help, but a combination of a few things?

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 6:10PM
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The idea that organically grown food costs more than non-organic is another of those assumptions that surprises me when I see it on the forum It's not true here in the west. Some things are cheaper organic, some are cheaper conventional. It seems to average out.

The difference in pest pressure due to climate makes sense to me. I don't know of specific pests that you all have that we don't, but I know when I have visited out east I have been surprised at the abundance and variety of insect life!

> If everyone started trying to grow their own fruit in their backyard, you can be assured the neighborhood would have the same pest pressure experienced on a commercial level.

I do not think I have ever seen an urban backyard without fruit out here. And one without tomatoes is rare. Growing food is something everyone does in the city, on some scale.

This forum continues to open my eyes to how different different parts of the US are, culturally.


Yes, growing grains and beans in backyard urban gardens exists and is becoming more popular.

People who are into this stuff have been asking themselves the same questions you pose -- where are the bulk of our calories coming from? An emphasis on tubers instead of grains is part of that. Growing sweet potatoes is a downright craze.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 10:21PM
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It's still a relatively free country. Thank goodness there are some options for us all to consider, and we can vote with our dollars. No one ever gets talked into or out of positions like organic versus conventional. Can we agree that we are better off having multiple options -- and that the various factions can co-exist together?

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 11:32PM
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skyjs(z8 OR, USA)

I don't think that the farmer is as great as 127 to 1 sounds. As a nation, we are using 7 years of stored fossil fuels in one day. The Kansas farmer could hold up a sign saying "I am 127 times worse than 7 years of fossil fuels in one day".
We can't keep going at this rate. He doesn't even grow his own food. He can't, because he knows how badly he soaks the soil with pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. He wouldn't eat it because he knows what he does to it. We also can't maintain the rate of cancer that we are currently suffering for the forseable future.
Places like Kansas and the Ukraine have always grown grains and probably always will. That is about regional specialties, not so much about efficiency, which in this case is just stealing from the future (destroying soil, wildlife, and fossil fuels).
We make so much of this "food " that we are paying companies to stuff high fructose corn syrup into our food, making it unhealthy. We have millions of people underemployed, obese, diabetic,excess wealth, maldistributed, and people on antidepressants because they're so unattached to anything natural. What can we do? Incorporate more permaculture into people's lives in a cooperative fashion, so even though they don't make huge profits by manipulating others, they make good food, they have good food, they have places to live, and we don't destroy our planet. A much more wholesome solution to the problem.
John S

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 1:51AM
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alan haigh

Organic folks, I used to do all my gardening organically in the 60s-90's and made all the arguments, including the relative high amount of calories in and few out with conventional ag (when factoring caloric content of fertilizer, pesticide and fuel) and some of those are important points.

What you should know is that pesticides are becoming decreasingly destructive and the idea that anything from a lab is taboo is, from my perspective, extremely naive. I believe we will require the efforts of chemists to deal with a planet so lopsided with the presence of humans, in agriculture, as well as all other aspects of the survival of our species. We seem to be living longer and longer in spite of whatever the problems with the chemicals in the environment and more of us are here every day.

It is also naive to suggest organic food is relatively as cheap as conventional- you aren't looking at the data- even in CA. Just because produce is sometimes on sale you have to look at average market price. I still visit and shop in CA regularly and am confident of this, but look it up and post any study that contradicts this and I will be shocked. Here, yesterday at Trader Joes, the organic strawberries were a dollar more a pound and that is relatively cheap. Organic produce is often twice as expensive. Grains maybe 50% more.

But we've had these discussions here many times and I will say that Mr. Clint sums it up just fine for me.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 5:34AM
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I would very much like to see the data showing pesticides are "decreasintly destructive". IF anything lack of decent studies and one company owning a major portion of the market definitely doesnt help show the truth. In that case, id personally rather spend the extra bit of cash, to get more nutritious food (what the article is basically about).

I can agree that saying "anything made in a lab" is naive, but its just as naive saying chemists will help. The only thing chemists have done is help farming become one of the most destructive things we do. OF course its only naive if you think ONLY chemestry can help. We are better using genetics and ecology.

Diseases are also on the rise. Some of this is of course, is because of strict numbers of our species but some illnesses are due to our lifestyles. A big portion of that is food. HEart disease and diabetes are caused by diet. There are many other chemicals under the microscope, and now GMO foods as well.

Again, I bring about the point of insects. The EU has banned certain sprays due to connections to bee die off (this is a whole other can of worms, probably best for its own thread), and banned most of not all GMO food. Just because the US doesnt follow suit does not mean the EU is wrong (or that the US is right).

I think some of the lopsidedness of the planet is due to thinking that chemistry and the like is the key to our survival. Sure, its helped us to an extent, but it also bites the hand that feeds you (natural ecosystems). With our science we think of nature as second tier after us. A lot of the talk here is "survival of human" with farming, not "survival of the planets ecosystems for the better of is AND nature".

Just to clarify, I dont concider myself an "organic farmer". Sure, I dont use chemicals (may have to, I do try to be realistic), I dont till, and i allow things to work themselves out. I try to garden sustainably, and most people would call it organic farming, but it isnt. While sustainable gardening technically is using organic methods, I do not use any type of "farming/agriculture" by definition, its closer to horticulture. Organic doesnt mean sustainable, but generally speaking, sustainable means organic (in methodology, not in practice).

I agree with mrclint; It isnt organic, or chemestry or any one thing that will help. It will be a combination of chemestry, biology, and ecology, using as many sustainable methods as possible. IMO the only problem is this may take a paradigm shift, and those dont usually happen overnight

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 7:06AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

I've followed the fruit pesticides for 40 years. The older pesticides could rightly be called generalized poisons similar to DDT. They killed lots of insects and animals. Many of the newer pesticides are very selective in their action. They attack one function of one pest like spider mites and have much less affect on other life forms. These are becoming widely used in IPM programs by commercial growers. But they aren't widely available to homeowners because they are so specialized and are often part of a system including things like mating disruption. Homeowners are still stuck mainly with the generalized poisons.

The other thing I see about home production is that output is a very small fraction of commercial output on an area basis. So while home grown has advantages such as being local, most home gardeners are very inefficient in terms of units output per unit input. And to me efficiency of production is a very important factor in sustainability and environmental friendliness.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 9:45AM
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alan haigh

I don't have data but consider specific materials. When I started gardening DDT was standard issue, it was taken off the market and replaced with insecticides that break down much quicker and for the most are not implicated in build ups in soil or water. Less stable organophosphates replaced it first but now even less disruptive insecticides are being used.

Lead arsenate was what was used by commercial fruit growers around here until DDT replaced it and old orchard sites are still carrying it in their soil and water below. It is ten times worse than anything used since, IMO, including DDT.

Fungicides like chlorathalinil are being replaced by seemingly much safer products that require much less material to do the job. Olpea has described all of this in previous threads much better than I have here.

There is no guarantee that organic means more nutritious- this wasn't studied and we don't know the source of foods in the study. It may just be the organic farms are newer and the soil hasn't been played out. One can use synthetics but still nourish the soil. Studies I've seen in equivalent soil show no nutritional advantage to organic in a consistent way- but be happy you can afford organic- right now the world cannot.

In the east organic production is much less efficient- even with vegetables (at small farm markets they are always at least double in price from vegetables at nearby stands of conventional stuff), and all farming is environmentally devastating in its own way. When you use more land to grow less food it is also an environmental problem.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 9:58AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

"I am 127 times worse than 7 years of fossil fuels in one day". We can't keep going at this rate."

I don't think your statistic is objectively stated. A Kansas farmer uses fuel for 127 people regarding only one small aspect of their lives - agriculture. He doesn't use the fuel for the rest of 127 people's industrial based lives - air conditioning, commuting, recreation, fuel used in production of their work, etc. I'm also not sure what you mean by using 7 years of fossil fuel in one day. That would mean just this year we've used over 2500 years worth of fossil fuels. I will admit that certainly sounds scary.

Let me say, I'm not a conspiracy theorist on the right who believes all the climate scientists are being bought off by environmentalists to fake global warming, nor a conspiracy theorist on the left who believes big business has bought off the EPA. Once someone starts to don on a tinfoil hat, the discussion is pretty much over for me.

But there's really no need to warn me about the dire long term consequences about industrial farming, or more fairly stated, industrialization in general. I agree with you. Burning up the planet, using up the resources, peak oil, peak phosphorus, peak helium, they're all real phenomena. The models make sense to me and are supported by data. Your argument is not against me, rather against the 7 bil. people who share the planet and the high standard of living humans currently enjoy (historically speaking).

However, even for someone who is determined to live a no impact life (from the documentary "No Impact Man") a moments reflection will reveal he/she is heavily dependent on industrialization. All the materials in his/her house were manufactured on the industrial model, shipped via industrialization, and assembled by people using industrialized tools, who have enough time/labor to do it because the rest of their lives are industrialized. I'm not at all against "no impact" people, but they are only able to appear no impact because they're extremely dependent on others whose lives are industrialized.

My point in all this is that many people indiscriminately pick out agriculture as the single aspect that should be de-industrialized, when above all else, it's the foundation of the standard of living we've come to enjoy. Food is the most basic human necessity. Shifting a significant portion of the population back into the production of it (through de-instrialization) would have enormous repercussions on what we call our quality of life.

I understand the ire of organic proponents. I've been dialoging with them for years. They hate chemicals, hate chemical companies, and hate the destruction of industrial farming, etc. But they long for a sort of "Garden of Eden" type farming that really never existed, or only exists in the backyards of CA.

It's not a myth, organic food really is much more expensive than conventional and really is less productive in terms of labor and land, and the problem is not solved simply by adopting "new" permaculture methods.

Many organic proponents so much want it to work, they "scan" the data looking for some farm that meets their romantic ideal and claim it invalidates all the history and data on the other side (people do this with global warming too).

However, the data point presented is almost always one of the exceptions I've mentioned (grown in desert conditions, or a very small niche that has a very large labor/food produced ratio and charges a lot for their product to cover their costs, is very unproductive on a land basis, or hasn't been doing it long enough to understand they are going broke.)

Below is a study of the price of organic food vs. non-organic. I'll mention the study was conducted in Canada which is much more conducive to organic growing than most areas of the U.S. Yet it points out almost all organic foods are more expensive and in general organic is less productive on a land basis (They didn't even analyze labor productivity.)

Most of these "new" permaculture ideas that would supposedly make organic work on a national scale, really aren't new. Cover crops, crop rotation, habitats for beneficials, companion planting, diversity, have all been around a long time, the most successful of which have been used, to one degree or another, in conventional farming. It's not that these methods haven't been tried, or are not well known. They are tried continually. There are a lot of people that desperately want organic, or some semblance of it, to work. The problem is not lack of information, or lack of effort.

Lastly, modern pesticides are certainly less destructive, to the environment and to human life. You can google how many millions of pounds of lead arsenate and Paris green were used pre-DDT era. These materials were very dangerous and in the case of lead arsenate, never disappear. That's why DDT was such a savior. It was much safer for humans and less caustic to wildlife in general. As Hman pointed out, It was very persistent in the environment, but not as persistent as lead arsenate. Of course DDT was hard on raptors, but most of the eagles were already gone before the introduction of DDT. They were predators of smaller farm animals (chickens, lambs, piglets) and farmers/ranchers shot eagles on site, decimating their population in the early 1900s.

DDT was the best option at the time, but it was rightly banned (for the most part) and gave way to organophosphates. Again as Hman mentioned, Organophosphates are slowly being phased out (Guthion the most recent) in favor of safer insecticides. It was as late as 1996 when the EPA developed the "Reduced Risk Pesticides" program. The EPA encourages use of these less destructive pesticides over others.

The same thing can be said for herbicides. I've been around long enough to be alive when 2-45T (Agent Orange) was commonly used here as a herbicide. I may have even sprayed it as a kid when I worked for the school over the summer in the 70s. I think it's fair to say 2-45T was fairly destructive by today's standards.

Here is a link that might be useful: Organic and Conventional Food - Review of the Economics of Consumer Perceptions and Preferences

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 1:17PM
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" Sure, I dont use chemicals "

People who say stuff like this just don't know what the word chemical means.

You use chemicals.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 4:23PM
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alan haigh

They have their own meaning, which is synthetic chemicals.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 4:53PM
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The article was humorous, thanks for posting harvestman. The study is fundamentally flawed. It makes sense that minuscule levels of pesticides would impact fruit flies, who are INSECTS. I have no quarrel with organic people, and generally am not spray-happy, but this study is meaningless. Unless you're a fruit fly.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 5:52PM
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> Here, yesterday at Trader Joes, the organic strawberries were a dollar more a pound

I read this and I thought, 'Well, of course, at Trader JOE's! Who would buy produce there?' Their stuff is ancient, and the organic is is incredibly expensive, compared to stores down the street.

Though no doubt prices in locally-owned stores are heavily influenced by volume, and by the fact that their organic produce is often local and the conventional is trucked in.

>not a myth, organic food really is much more expensive than conventional and really is less productive in terms of labor and land,

Really? This seems to make no sense, intuitively. Are the studies you cite factoring in the 'externalized' costs, such as toxic waste (locally and at chemical plants), health care costs for workers (local and not), wars for oil, soil degradation, water pollution, fuel subsidies...?

I'm not anti 'chemicals'. And I'm glad that people are working to develop safer products. But I do get the impression that a lot of things are done the way they are because of government incentives, or because it's the way people grew up doing them. Not necessarily because they are the most efficient in the long term.

As we move towards more government involvement in healthcare, I wonder if that will change farming practices ;).

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 11:04PM
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skyjs(z8 OR, USA)

I agree that farming is not the only important source of pollution. People need to use bikes, public transportation and create entertainment locally more. The building industry is notoriously inefficient as well. Just think of fast food!

I also agree that we can't jump into perfect earth harmony tomorrow. I do think little steps that we start with today will make a big difference over the long run and ease our transition into the time when we can no longer use 7 years of fossil fuels in one day.

Of course organic is more expensive than synthetic. The government subsidizes synthetic and the damage that it does.

Part of the great efficiencies of modern life is the people looking the other way at the environmental damage, ignoring the time they're not spending with their kids, and how isolated and unhealthy we now are.

It's kind of like when you're listening to country music and they talk about how great life is in the country and then you realize that the people in the country don't really have that life. They want to find that life.
John S

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 2:19AM
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yukkuri_kame(Sunset 19 / USDA 9)

The recent fertilizer plant explosion in Waco caused at least 14 deaths (still finding bodies last I checked), 200 injuries and 60 people unaccounted for. It leveled an entire neighborhood, including a school. Many folks lost their homes. The explosion an earthquake that was felt in Oklahoma. The mushroom cloud literally reached the stratosphere.

Not all costs of conventional ag are accounted for in the so-called 'bottom line'. This is just one example.

Here is a link that might be useful: Waco explosion

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 3:57AM
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alan haigh

OK, I give up- the left and right are equally faith based and provincial.

Who is this GOV? It must control the world because price is higher for organic in every country that eats through industrialized agriculture (those are the ones where half the population doesn't spend their days picking weeds)..

I will agree that in all industry the consumer pays the hidden costs of whatever environmental damage is paid for in quality of life or Gov. intervention funded by taxpayers. The problem is at least as true in industrial pollution as agricultural but we are all living in homes and driving cars that are part of this complex. You may be right (I actually think you are) that the price is too high, but let's get our math right.

I know organic farmers and the price of labor is astronomical. One of the most expensive aspects is, in fact, weed control. I suspect that anyone who is truly an active gardener knows what I'm talking about here. Organic farming is brutal work made possible (in scale) by imported labor.

As in every other aspect of our lives, modern chemistry saves time which saves money.

When I talked about the price of organic, one person says "well what do you expect- you shop at trader Joe's", completely ignoring what I said about the price of organic produce at farmers markets. This is the kind of motivated reasoning that makes logical discussion between adults difficult sometimes.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 6:03AM
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"I know organic farmers and the price of labor is astronomical. One of the most expensive aspects is, in fact, weed control. I suspect that anyone who is truly an active gardener knows what I'm talking about here. Organic farming is brutal work made possible (in scale) by imported labor."

No. All farming (organic or not), is made possible my imported human labor. A few years ago, the south east had lost almost all its lettuce crop, due to anti immigrant laws making it hard for them to find work (ask me and ill post the link).

It is also an assumption to say weed control is harder. Organic farms usually use cover crops or mulch to get around some weeds. The big thng is, many "weeds" are opertunistic and usually grow on disturbed soils (tilled). Many organic farms (As you mentioned) do not till.

In terms of sustainable gardens, your assumption is even worse. Sheet mulching the area, along with a cover crop mixture will help elimitate most weeds. I have done this myself. I started it wrong, and didnt do the whole area, but the spots I did there are no problems with weeds, and the areas i didnt, is not getting any worse, its getting BETTER.

Also, using the price argument for organic food is moot. There are many scales of prices for ANY food, meat, veggies and all processed foods a like. I can find a whole chicken ranging ffrom 5 bucks, all the way to 20, depending on what im willing to spend. The same goes with produce. And in my experience, there are many organic foods that are only off by say, a few cents a pound (in the case of apples here). I think the price of organic is regional and relative to your situation.

Lastly, you keep mentioning chemistry. There is more to farming then chem, and more beneficial branches of science in terms of agriculture then chem. Using one branch to justify your points does not get your point across, and makes it seem that you are just as bias, as what you say organic farmers are against "businesses" and chemicals.

Olpea - I agree about inputs vs outputs. In sustainable methods, this is usually the first thing thought about. What can I use in my location? What can I use locally? In conventional farming, the inputs almost always seem to outweight the outputs.

There is also the use of different definitions. At least in permaculture, they use the word "yeild" to define the total harvest minus the inputs, rather then in conventional farming, where it seems they just use the amount of their 1 - 4 crops in themselves.

You also make my point, when you mention past "destructive" chemicals. We didnt think they were that harmful then (even with some "testing), so what makes you think that we wont find out that the "new" chemicals are in the same boat? We can claim testing all we want, the fact is you yourself used the term "less damaging", rather then (relatively) no damage at all.

The problem is, I havent found much data saying pesticides are selective. There have been tests, but not enough long term studies (this can be said for many things that we all have said in this thread).

Also Olpea, I know that you like to read studies/books etc. I have found many, many papers (recent) that show the presence of agricultural chemicals in our soil and water. There are many chemicals mentioned in those papers, and am wondering if you can mention some of the newer sprays that you have mentioned please? I am just wondering if any were metioned in the papers I have seen.

It isnt just pesticides, its the actual fertilizers. There are many places with "dead" lakes or areas due namely to agricultural run off (among other things). It is linked to synthetic ferts, as well as cattle farms.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 8:07AM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

I see the use of the words organic and green as marketing tools. It tells me little of what I'm eating is safe or not. .Even though we have all these chemicals in the environment we keep living longer and longer. We must be doing something right?

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 10:31AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

"Also Olpea, I know that you like to read studies/books etc. I have found many, many papers (recent) that show the presence of agricultural chemicals in our soil and water. There are many chemicals mentioned in those papers, and am wondering if you can mention some of the newer sprays that you have mentioned please?"

The newer reduced risk pesticides I use are:

Intrepid (methoxyfenozide). This is a very selective insecticide and is only effective against lepidoptera insects. It's a unique chemistry that prevents molting of the moth. I've read the compound has been tested by direct spray on bee hives with no negative response to the bees, and indeed is one of the few insecticides labeled for blueberries at bloom to control fruitworm.

Assail (Acetamiprid). A neonicotinoid, but much less toxic to bees than other neonics. Neonicotinoids are basically a safer synthetic derivative of nicotine. Nicotine has long been recognized as a good insecticide, and Blackleaf 40 was (as the name suggests) 40% nicotine. It was very dangerous to handle. Acetamiprid has a high margin of safety for humans and protects beneficial insect predators because most of the compound is absorbed in leaf tissue (where is breaks down after about 10 days) leaving the surface of leaves fairly safe for predator insects to land.

Belt (flubendiamide) Another selective insecticide that only has activity against lep moths. It has a different mode of action than Intrepid.

Delegate (spinetoram). This is the synthetic version of the natural insecticide spinosad. Spinosad is produced from naturally occurring bacteria. Spinosad (Entrust) is approved by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI). I have chosen the synthetic version because, not being limited by the OMRI condition that an insecticide must be natural, the synthetic version was tweaked a bit to make it more effective against insects.

Elevate fungicide (Fenhexamid). A reduced risk fungide effective against brown rot. It's pretty new and very expensive.

It's recognized all pesticides have a leach potential and is one of the criteria tested before EPA registration can be obtained. Leach potential mostly has to do with how tightly the compound binds to the soil (for example Roundup binds very tightly and consequently has a low leach potential) and how quickly the compound breaks down. Of course the type of soil, amount of rainfall, temperature, etc. affect leaching. All this is taken into consideration in regard to labeling. Our water district tests for Atrazine (common herbicide used in row crops). There is always some detected (can't remember if it's parts per million, or parts per billion) but it's always below federal standards.

It's very sad the fertilizer plant blew up, but we need fertilizer. I use very little synthetic fertilizer in my orchard, but I've been able to receive free loads of wood chips which have a good fertilizer value. If I didn't have the highly industrialized, fuel intensive tree trimming services donating me these chips, at some point I'd have to replenish the soil with synthetic fertilizer.

Today, synthetic fertilizer is probably more essential for agriculture than chemicals. There's simply not enough natural fertilizer to take care of the needs of all agriculture (even with the amount of livestock we currently have). Nitrogen fixing cover crops help (which is one of the reasons row crop farmers rotate corn after beans) but don't add enough fertility to produce yields anyway near that of manure or synthetic fertilizer.

Subsidies were mentioned. Although they get a lot of blame for all the high fructose corn syrup we consume (I've seen the documentary Food Inc) I don't buy that they're the reason for our current agricultural model. With mechanization, certain row crops with high energy density can be grown with very little labor. It was farmers that figured this out, not some diabolical plan by the government to make Archer Daniels Midland rich and kill us all with corn syrup.

The only subsidy that has had a significant affect on U.S. agriculture is the ethanol subsidy, without which the ethanol plants wouldn't have been built (which I think was a dumb plan anyway).

All that said, I think the gov. should stop all ag subsidies. All they do is provide a nice club for environmentalists to beat up modern ag. Plus they almost all go to row crop farmers, who don't need them anyway.

This post was edited by olpea on Wed, Apr 24, 13 at 20:17

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 10:39AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


That is exactly what they are, marketing tools to fool the gullible. I know of at least 4 blueberry farms here in central Florida shipping fruit right now labeled "organic" yet they use sulfuric acid to treat their water which is not organic and use weedkiller to control weeds. You know it happens across the spectrum of farms. If you want truly organic you better grow it yourself.


I do find it interesting that on all other issues you fall just to the left of Stalin yet on this one issue your position is way to the right.....could it be because you need the poisons to make your living? Can you say hypocrite? lol:)

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 10:40AM
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alan haigh

Bamboo, you are crossing the line with this continuous insulting barrage you slew my way. I like everybody but your childish behavior is beginning to grate.

I'm not interested in responding to your straw man arguments or calling you names- as easy a target as you may or may not be.

People who like me consider me an original thinker and both folks on the left and right of the political spectrum have plenty to argue and agree with me on.

Now, CTP, you are also using a bit of this straw man approach- I didn't suggest that all agriculture doesn't require imported labor- where do you come up with that.

I was saying that organic requires more manual labor than conventional and I personally am friends with two organic small market farmers who will vouch for this. Yes, in spite of all the methods you mention their help spends a great deal of time pulling weeds.

I have to wonder where you get your information- I'm actually a farmer and in some manner have grown agricultural products for money my entire adult life (about 40 years). My weed control on my small bearing age fruit tree farm is a weed whacker (and mulch) and I don't pretend that its use is somehow more environmentally friendly than glysphosphate. Dumping industrial waste in the atmosphere is no improvement on dumping it in the soil.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 5:09PM
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Thanks Olpea, now I have some reading to do!

I think it would be debatable (a good debate mind you) if we have enough natural fert to go around. Before us, forests had enough, and those forests covered a bit more then what our farms do (I understand that we can grow plants in places you couldnt "naturally" grow the like anything in cali pretty much) . There are quite few "what ifs " I can think of for both sides ...

Also, I think the subsidies for corn are the highest? It IS in everything.... I also agree subsidies should go, along with the lobbying that takes place (hell, Ill say that generally, not only to agriculture)

I would also like to mention, that my personal dislike of synthetic fertilizer, is its source and our reliance upon it. For instance, if we were to utilize algae as a source for nitrogen, my personal view may change. Generally speaking in moderation it can help, and if it were made from algae, it would be no different from organic farmers using sulfur to amend soil.

HM - I was replying to you saying organic farmers work more. I have seen many examples where weeds arent a problem, even in large scale. I guess this also depends on your definition of "weeds". Again, you are mentioning organic farmers, and generally speaking there is no real difference in their methods when comparing them to conventional farmers, rather then the type of fertilizer, and lack of "harsh" chemical sprays...

What I was mostly refering to was sustainable methods, which most types are not "typical" agriculture. Sure, at the start the work is about the same, but over time it gets less and less. To simplify it, you basically smother the weeds and and dont give them a chance.

Lastly, this is more about agriculture damage rather then pollution from industrial waste, or cars etc (which no one would really debate as being negative). Agriculture has damaged the ecosystem, but so have our cities, waste, cars and industry. Cherry picking one as being worse then the other really wont get anyone anywhere. All are problems that need to be dealt with.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 11:05PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

"I would also like to mention, that my personal dislike of synthetic fertilizer, is its source and our reliance upon it."

OK, well this is something I will never understand? Nitrogen is nitrogen, it all comes from the same place, and that would be during the fusion process in stars. I don't see how organic nitrogen run off would be any better than synthetic runoff?? Sorry it's rather silly and using the term synthetic implies we made it, and we did not, we just collected it. It's almost as silly as global warming! Carbon dioxide right now is the highest concentration in the atmosphere in my lifetime, pretty hot out there huh? Not last year, but right now, it is through the roof! Almost .0397%
of the atmosphere! When the dinosaurs were here levels were 10 times higher. Historically levels are dropping, It concerns me actually that plant life will not have enough.
It used to be 1,000,000 ppm. Now it is 397ppm or .0397% of total atmosphere.Since terrestrial vegetation of the Northern Hemisphere is awakening (it's spring!), levels will go down as the plants utilize it. Global warming is almost as ironic as us creating the hole in the ozone. Frank Zappa once said the most abundant element in the universe is stupidity, and he is correct! Historical records clearly show the hotter it becomes, the more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It is as plain as the nose on Zappa's face. Of course co2 is high, as temps are way up! When the temps go down, so will the co2 levels. Co2 does not drive up temps! Temperature drives up co2! Jesus people! Wake up!
The historical record is quite clear on this. Co2 follows high temps, not vice versa! Now the cold spring makes sense.. This cold weather should drive levels down in a few months, but it will be hard to tell as plants growing this spring also will drive it down.

This post was edited by Drew51 on Thu, Apr 25, 13 at 3:41

    Bookmark   April 25, 2013 at 3:11AM
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alan haigh

CP, I was trying to find out what your background is, but there is nothing on this site that explains your relationship to agriculture. Is it in the earth or in your head?

Your overwhelmingly enthusiastic endorsement of sustainable methodology is not quite what I expect from someone slugging it out with mother nature to make a living, no matter how they are doing it.

The way you talk about farms you've been to just doesn't strike me as rooted in the soil either, but maybe I'm not interpreting your message clearly.

Still, I would guess you are young with a sense that you've discovered the holy grail and want to share your enlightenment with the world before you've actually proven your vision through your own work.

I hope you will pursue your beliefs on your own farm, and look forward to reports of your real world agricultural experiences in the coming decades If I happen to still be around.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2013 at 5:51AM
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Drew - The synthetics we use now comes from oil. Relying on one source of energy (which is essentially what we do now) is stupid, especially one that we know causes damage that there can be other ways around.

Also, if there is one thing science has some consensus on, it is climate change (global warming is misleading). There may be some debate from a smaller number of scientists as to what is warming up most of the planet.

IF you wish to discuss this topic drew, please make a new thread about it! THis topic/thread is already broad enough!

HM - To clarify, I am discussing information I have found from research and my own (somewhat limited) experience gardening. There are many misinterpretations when thinking of organic and sustainable, and discussing them is really the only way to learn a bit more.

Ive dealt with plants all my life, mostly houseplants, but have always been into growing things. Ive always been interested in homesteading and living of the land, or at the very least, trying to not rely on others to provide for me, at least in the way of food.

Ive only really been into "farming", practice wise for about 4 years. This does mean i do lack experience (which of course is importiant), but this does not mean that I have not done any research or am completely closed minded in regards to conventional farming. I know many, many farmers and more gardeners and am in constant discussion with them.

Let me explain a bit about what I am actually doing in my yard. Im as urban as you can get in a city my size. The yard is around 100feet x 30. At first it was more about cold hardy exotics. A buddy introduced me to permaculure, and ended up delving headfirst into 8 books on the subject, and gigabites of data read since.

Essentially, I have a mini orchard with 8 trees, more going in this year. 2 Evans cherry, 1 John pear (one seedling pear), 1 honeygold apple (one seedling apple as well), 1 toka plum, and one seedling apricot (mainly as an experiment). Along with those I have a few lilacs, bamboo, some rhodies and roughly 150 other species in the yard (about 100 are perennial). I dont even think of most plants as "weeds" either. Dandelion was everywhere when I started, and it has been eliminated this way, except in one patch (where the soil seems to be the worse in the yard), so I just let it do its thing rather than getting stressed about it. The same goes for clover, which is more beneficial then a pest IMO. The only real "weed" im having a problem with is "ground ivy" and that is only a problem when I dig up the lawn.

I have never seen as many insects in my yard before I started gardening this way. The same goes for birds. Mind you, the learning curve is a bit off from conventional farming. I made the mistake of not properly sheet mulching the lawn, so there are patches of grass. The effect was actually quite interesting, because my yard essentially looked like a patch of meadow. The small patches I did this too have no weed problems.

My ground cover so far consists of strawberries, oragano, lemon balm, comfrey, clover (red and white), chives, yarrow (4 or 5 kinds) , dandelion (to a small extent now), and annual greens like lettuce and spinach with annual herbs as well.

On top of this, I also have to experiment with what will grow here, because there is a severe lack of information or people growing certain plants (like fruit trees). There is misunderstandings with my climate as well. People all grow the same plums and apples, and and to a very small extent, pears. It also doesnt help, when the stores here sell plants for a zone higher.

One would think with all of these plants in a small area that id be outside all summer with no job, but this isnt the case. The whole idea is to be able to leave it alone for XXX amount of time, without it collapsing. In this stage this lets me see what works and what doesnt. With the exception of this year, my work load has been relatively low, putting in maybe 12 hours a week, but have not been able to see any good yeilds, due to me experimenting with what does well here.

Basically I want to lessen my reliance on outside sources for food. We all know that society as it is now is generally destructive to the environment, and IMO growing a bit of food for yourself in a responsible manner can help, and is much easier then say, giving up driving a car or going into the woods to live "off the grid".

    Bookmark   April 25, 2013 at 8:38AM
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alan haigh

My point wasn't to put you on defensive, just to suggests that once you've tried out your research, I think you may do some compromising on your ideals as well as shifting them somewhat.

You can't make full sense out of research until you put it to work. I could write a book of experiences I've had that contradict "the research".

    Bookmark   April 25, 2013 at 2:03PM
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Thank you, olpea, for the info on safer insecticides.


I respect and admire you for your posts on this forum. I have learned a lot from you and I hope to do so in the future.

You hurt my feelings with the way you twisted my words.

>When I talked about the price of organic, one person says "well what do you expect- you shop at trader Joe's", completely ignoring what I said about the price of organic produce at farmers markets. This is the kind of motivated reasoning that makes logical discussion between adults difficult sometimes.

I did not say that. It is, however, my experience that Trader Joe's charges much higher prices for organic produce of much inferior quality, compared to other stores in my town.

Do you not believe my reports about prices local to me? I believe you about your local prices. But saying that organics cost more everywhere is simply not true.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2013 at 10:45AM
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alan haigh

Nila, I'm sorry I hurt your feelings, my tone was inspired by a general frustration and I didn't mean to have it land specifically on you as an insult. It hurts my feelings that I hurt yours.

The frustration comes from having to debate obvious and, frankly, undebatable facts.

Organic production of food is more expensive and so is the cost of the product to the consumer, and we shouldn't be debating that point because the info can so easily be researched- Olpea even supplied documentation from the Canadian Gov. That doesn't mean that it is always more expensive for every product because anything with a short shelf life is affected strongly by supply and demand. If you don't sell it soon enough it becomes worthless.

I happen to spend a good deal of time talking to growers and dairy men as well as reading their trades, and most everyone's at least somewhat interested in organic production- and one of the reasons is that it commends higher prices- no one I've ever met that produces food commercially has ever, ever questioned this.

I'm sorry I am not as patient and polite as Olpea. but I feel I'm too old to change and I'm probably not really all that sorry. Some of us are a bit gruff by nature- that's why we move to NY.

Incidentally, in the northeast, Trader Joe's is one of the cheapest sources for organic goods, Their vegetable selection isn't much, but they carry a very good fruit selection of high quality and much less expensive than Whole Foods or the independents.

At least I didn't compare you to the worlds second most notorious mass murdering monster of all time.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2013 at 11:58AM
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>Some of us are a bit gruff by nature- that's why we move to NY.


Some of us grow up on the west coast and expect everyone to be gentle and mild unless actively killing a bear or somethin' :).

>I happen to spend a good deal of time talking to growers and dairy men as well as reading their trades, and most everyone's at least somewhat interested in organic production- and one of the reasons is that it commends higher prices

Doesn't that imply that they think the prices are, in part, based on higher /profits/ ? If the price was different but the profit per unit was the same, they wouldn't care.

That's how the markets used to be out here when organic was first becoming popular,in the late 70s and early 80s. You could make more profit by growing organic because organic food was a scarce commodity and the people who wanted it were highly committed. They were willing to pay a lot to get the product they wanted.

The market here is more mature, now. The big supermarket chains have large organic produce sections, and their own lines of organic can/box foods. I think most people who buy organic, now, buy a mix of organic and non-, depending on price and quality. That makes for a much more competitive system. Organic has to be a good deal, or people won't buy it.

>Trader Joe's is one of the cheapest sources for organic goods

WOW. Out here, I don't think they carry anything local. And their organic stuff, as you said elsewhere, costs a buck more. Plus it looks old and funky.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2013 at 12:20PM
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I got distracted, Harvestman, and forgot to say thank you, for your kind words and for caring :).

    Bookmark   April 27, 2013 at 12:21PM
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alan haigh

Check this out. Seems it costs almost twice as much to produce organically in CA. Whatever you may think you are paying locally the real economics of it are pretty well summed up in this paper in terms of the economics of feeding the world at this point of time.

I can't say that technology on the organic end won't bridge this gap, but it may actually be getting more difficult (expensive) to grow food organically as new pests arrive at an ever accelerating pace.

Here is a link that might be useful: orgnic production costs in CA

    Bookmark   April 27, 2013 at 2:12PM
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HM - Please dont think I was on the defensive. I havnt resorted to saying you use "poison to make a living" (just to clarify, that was a joke lol) You just asked for some background, which is understandable, I dont always discuss my own opinions...

Drew - "Nitrogen is Nitrogen" is a common misconception. Most of the nitrogen in synthetic fertilizer is made from petroleum products. I just think there are way more sustainable ways to aquire it, even if you do choose to use something rather then manure, compost etc.. I also think we rely on it (oil) way to much (not ignoring the fact its basically the catalyst for the last 100 or so years)

    Bookmark   April 27, 2013 at 6:58PM
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Great link! On a quick skim, it says that for 2 of the 9 crops surveyed (lettuce and alfalfa), organic production is less expensive than conventional.

I'm not sure, but I don't think they included the fact (mentioned in the notes) that OG growers of those crops rotate crops more frequently than conventional growers. If not, that may negate the cost benefit of growing organically.

Two other crops (grapes/raisins and corn) are about equal cost for OG vs. conventional.

So that's 4 out of 9, or almost half, of the crops surveyed where organic methods are cheaper or roughly equal to conventional. That fits what I see at the grocery store: Some stuff is cheaper when organic, some is cheaper when conventional. Then there are the externalized costs.

Or am I reading this all wrong? I was up most of the night with a very nonagressive, but very persistent, yellowjacket queen who wants to raise babies in our bedroom.

(Funny, the organic mint spray that is, IME, far more effective than Raid on worker yellowjackets only makes her still for 20 minutes, then she gets right up and is fine. Not even angry at the somewhat-nonplussed me. But I do not want to spray the bedroom with Raid.)

    Bookmark   April 27, 2013 at 9:52PM
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Oh, I did read the grapes thing wrong.

Rough ratios, organic:conventional

alfalfa 1:2

tomatoes 2:1

corn 3:2

broccoli 3:2

lettuce 3:4

strawberries 3:4

grapes 5:4

almonds 5:4

walnuts 2:1

So that looks like two crops where we have a 2x cost difference (in one OG is cheaper, in two conventional is), two crops with a 3:2 ratio (OG is more), and four crops where costs are roughly equal. Either that or I should go get some sleep.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2013 at 10:06PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


Only strawberries, lettuce and alfalfa are cheaper for all costs excluding labor, land and machinery.

If labor is considered, the only organic system which uses less labor is almonds, which only uses slightly less.

For machinery costs, only organic corn, strawberries and lettuce use less machinery.

This doesn't take into consideration the yields.

The bottom line is in the last paragraph, which states:

"...lower expected output for organic strawberries and almonds making the profitability of these crops highly dependent on price premiums for organic products."

"Organic vegetables produce fewer crops over a two year period from an acre of land than conventional production reducing revenue even when yields are the same.
Therefore, organic vegetables and alfalfa are also dependent on organic price premiums to realize the same profits as conventional production." (emphasis added)

What the study is saying is that every organic crop measured was dependent on price premiums for survival. This was in CA, where conditions are by far much more favorable for organic systems vs. the rest of the U.S.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 11:04AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


I forgot to congratulate you on posting a link. I knew you could do it :-)

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 11:08AM
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alan haigh

Nila, it's funny to me that people reading the same data often see different things based on what they want to see.

I do believe that your desire to convince us and/or yourself that organic production is becoming comparably as cost affective as conventional is an emotionally based interpretation. You may believe the same of me, but the experts are on my side, which I'm sure you can explain to justify your position.

Bottom line, when organic becomes as cost affective as conventional, it will rapidly replace it, unless people are willing to pay more for food grown with the aid of synthetic applications (you know, out of sympathy for the poor folks trying to make a living at Monsanto).

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 11:44AM
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alan haigh

Oh, and Olpea, I've think I've stretched my ability of dealing with high technology to about its limit. Maybe someday I will learn how to post a photo without my wife's help.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 4:45PM
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Oh, my goodness, there are a bunch of pages I missed! I was in worse shape than I even realised, yesterday. Still pretty bad today.


>your desire to convince us and/or yourself that organic production is becoming comparably as cost affective as conventional

Oh, dear, is that what you think I think?! I sure have been doing a terrible job of communicating, then.

I was just looking for explanations of the facts on the ground at my local markets: OG stuff does not cost more than conventional across the board. Why is that?

As for what the true costs are per acre, I don't really know if I am qualified to speculate. Certainly I am not saying that I know!

I will go ahead and speculate, just so you will not have to imagine what I think ;).

I think that, in most cases, people who use conventional methods do so because it is lower cost /to them/. When we factor in national costs such as military defense of oil, farm subsidies, health care and pollution... I don't know. By that I mean, I really have no opinion.

I think that for some crops in some ecosystems, there may well be no personal-cost benefit to non organic methods, and people who use them might just do so because they don't know that.

I certainly do not think this is the case for all crops everywhere! To me, that idea is absurd. I am a little befuddled that you would pin it on me, but I guess I am a stranger to you.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 10:48PM
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I do think that we should talk about differences in profit.

In some areas, OG crops include a higher profit in their costs to consumers. Thus, the prices people see at the store do not reflect the actual cost of production.

There also may be other stores or farmers that mark up OG produce /less/ than conventional. It goes both ways.

Really, the whole pricing system of vegies and fruits is not based on the cost of production. I mean, look at the cost of a weed like sunchokes or spearmint.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 10:53PM
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