Organic and Conventional Farming: Different, not Better

Every farmer I know has been asked questions about why they farm the way they do. The most common question we are asked about our farm is why we farm organically. I shared our reasons for transitioning to organic as well as the basic differences between organic and conventional farming here.

This morning, I was extremely interested to read this post by The Farmer’s Wifee, a dairy farmer in Washington State. http://www.thefarmerswifee.com/farm-not-organic/
Krista shares the reasons why she and her husband do not farm organically. And I can totally understand and respect their decision. But what I respect even more is her method of relaying this information to her readers. She writes about their choice to farm conventionally without once denigrating the organic way of farming. I LOVE that! I’ve previously lamented the current trend of farmers and farming groups “bashing” other types of farming, here and here. It saddens me to see farmers and farming groups promoting their method of farming by throwing other types under the bus, so to speak. I firmly believe that we all should be able to explain why we farm the way we do without feeling the need to diminish other farmers and farm types.

Labels do not make one farm better than another. Period. Conventional and organic farmers both farm in the way that they feel best benefits their land and animals and is the best fit for farmer and farm family and their extenuating circumstances. For example, Krista’s farm does not have enough pasture land close enough to their barns in order to meet the pasture requirements of the organic standards. But they make the effort to have their heifers on leased pasture during the grazing season. Does this mean that their farming method is not as “good” as ours just because our milk cows are pastured? Absolutely not! And no one should ever make them feel that way!! And while the US organic standards forbid any antibiotic use in dairy cows, in Canada, cows are permitted to be treated with antibiotics if they become ill, albeit with very strict restrictions regarding milk withdrawal times and treatment frequency. I’ve often wondered if we would have made the switch to organic if antibiotic use was not pemitted here. Like Krista, I love our cows too much to want to consider the possibility of having to sell one of our girls if they should need antibiotic treatment.

We switched to organic farming because it was a good fit for our farm and family, and because we like the thought of giving informed consumers more choices in the dairy aisles of their grocery stores. Farmers, please join me in the fight for farmers and farm groups to support each other, regardless of farm type. I don’t mind of you adopt my motto regarding farming styles: “Farming a certain way doesn’t make us better, it simply makes us different.” 🙂

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