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Organic farming

More farmers going organic to improve soil, save energy, and produce better food

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: organic farming, crop yields, health news

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(NaturalNews) Conventional farming methods may gradually be going the way of the buffalo, at least for many smaller-scale farmers who are discovering the practical and financial benefits of switching to organic techniques. The Morning Call (TMC) reports that many dairy farmers are making the transition to organic because they are realizing it is better for their herds, better for the land, better for consumers, and ultimately better for business.

When James Burkholder, a Pennsylvania dairy farmer, made the decision to switch his dairy herd of 60 conventional cows to organic, it was almost a no-brainer. The conventional dairy market has seen profitability wane considerably in recent years, and Burkholder told reporters that he and his family had considered starting a new business altogether because it was almost no longer worth their while -- that is, until they discovered the benefits of operating an organic dairy farm.

"It just was not profitable," said Burkholder to TMC, concerning operating a conventional dairy farm. "The farmer has no control over the pay price."

Burkholder refers, of course, to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) system in which milk and other agricultural prices are set as one price across the board. Farmers who grow or raise these products must sell them according to CME exchange prices, which for milk has decreased considerably in recent years.

But the organic milk market is a whole different animal, and one that many smaller-scale farmers like Burkholder recognize as a viable new opportunity for growing their businesses and improving profitability. And environmentally, organic dairy farming improves land quality and produces better dairy products that are healthier for both the environment and for consumers.

"We do think there's a difference," said Jeff Moyer, farm director of the Rodale Institute and owner of the land next to Burkholder's property that is now being used to transition his conventional cows to organic. Not only do organic, pasture-raised dairy cows spread their own manure naturally on pasture land, which results in better quality soil, but they also produce milk that is higher in omega-3s, omega-6s, and conjugated linoleic acids.

"There are some folks that just say milk is just milk and it doesn't really matter if it was produced from cows that were fed grain or fed grass," said Moyer in another TMC interview. "Logic says that's just not true and that's what our research will look at."

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