Richard Wiswall, author of The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook: A Complete Guide Managing Finances, Crops, and Staff – and Making a Profit, has high hopes for farmers. In a recent interview with Laura Klein from TriplePundit, Wiswall spoke about organic farming, and the future of food.
Sustainable agriculture is the fastest-growing sector of the food industry. On the other hand, less than 1% of American cropland is farmed organically.
In light of this conundrum, what keeps the organic farmer going?
I spoke with Richard Wiswall, author of The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook: A Complete Guide Managing Finances, Crops, and Staff – and Making a Profit, to find out more about what it’s like to be an organic farmer in these tough economic times.
“The future of organic is very, very solid in spite of level sales,” says Wiswall. A farmer first and author second, Wiswall is seeing a groundswell of new organic farmers entering the marketplace, which he and others attribute to the writings of Michael Pollan, films like Food Inc., and the increased concern surrounding food safety issues in general.
However, there are big speed bumps in the way of an organic farmer’s success.
GMOs, or Genetically Modified Organisms, provide what Wiswall dubs as a “very dark cloud” for the organic farmer. Not only do GMOs operate outside the boundaries of nature, they are the source of expensive lawsuits for farmers. Companies like Monsanto regularly accuse farmers of “stealing” their seeds, even though GMO-tainted pollen often lands in an organic farmer’s land unknowingly via mother nature.
Other issues with GMO foods include:
- GMO seeds are costly to patent and by law, can’t be saved for replanting. This is a far cry from the claims that GMOs help poor farmers from around the world
- GMOs need increased levels of toxins to control weeds, an unsafe option both ecologically and from a human health standpoint.
- GMOs are artificially injected with foreign proteins. Check out Robyn O’Brien’s book The Unhealthy Truth How Our Food is Making Us Sick – And What We Can Do About It to learn how foreign proteins are negatively affecting human health.
GMO “developers have not failed at making huge profits in a system where farmers are forced to market on volume, and have no market rewards for nutritional quality or penalties for ecological impact,” according to Timothy J. LaSalle.
Another huge challenge for organic farmers are Good Agricultural Practices or GAP, which audits food growers for safety standards (see the debate about one such GAP program, the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, which is raging on OrganicAuthority.com). While the premise is solid – to ensure food is safe – GAP certification can be cost-prohibitive for small organic farmers, ranging from $5,000-$10,000. Plus, the strict standards of sanitization required by GAP are geared for big corporate agriculture – not organic farmers.
With food safety issues on the rise, insurance companies are also heavily involved. “Insurers are pressuring retailers for GAP certifications, and retailers are pressuring farmers,” says Wiswall. […]
Read the entire interview here.