Farmers explore challenges and rewards of organic farming
A panel of Farm Bureau members who farm organically discussed the challenges and rewards of choosing organic farming at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2018 Annual Convention & IDEAg Trade Show.
Panelist Tom Schwarz, an organic farmer from Bertrand, Nebraska, who currently serves on AFBF’s Organic and Direct Marketing Issue Advisory Committee, said organic was a viable option for his family after going through financial, weather and estate planning challenges.
“From my perspective, organic has a variety of challenges including intense management and record keeping, social pressures, weed management and the need for quick adaptability to change and problem solving,” Schwarz said. “But I love that the customers appreciate what we do.
“We need as farmers to start looking at customers. My job is to say ‘I can do that,’” Schwarz said. “We as farmers are not here to make judgments on consumers.”
Blake Alexandre’s family said that the journey to organic production made sense when they thought about creating a business option that would be viable for their five children, after evaluating their financial goals. They focused on life beginning in the soil and producing the most nutrient-dense milk, eggs and meat on their farm in Northern California.
“We don’t need to be apologetic about what we do,” said Alexandre. “We are farming like my grandfather did only with more knowledge.
“We value working hard and working smart, and we recognize that we must remain profitable to sustain the business we depend upon,” said Alexandre. “We recognize life is not easy and life on the farm can be even more difficult. We value and surround our business with the personalities and positive attitudes of ‘we can do it.’”
Carolyn Olson serves on the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation’s board of directors and chairs AFBF’s Organic and Direct Marketing Issue Advisory Committee. She said she and her husband, Jonathon, had been raising food-grade soybeans to add value to their crops. In 1996, buyers began asking if the soybeans were organic. Since then, they transitioned all 1,100 acres to certified organic while raising their hogs conventionally.
“Jonathan and I have found that we really enjoy the process of farming organically. We are always reevaluating our weed control methods and changing how we do things,” said Olson. “Being open and honest about what we do and how we farm has helped relationships. It has also helped to create a more positive view of organic agriculture in general.
“I believe that doing what one wants to do is freedom. Doing what you love doing is happiness,” said Olson. “We love what we do.”