Organic Dairying Requires Willingness To Learn

US - Interest in organic agriculture, particularly organic dairying, has increased in the past few years.
calendar icon 2 April 2007
clock icon 2 minute read
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture reported a greater than 50 percent increase in the amount of farmland in organic production from 2000 to 2006.

Certified organic farms in Minnesota increased from 382 in 2000 to 530 in 2006. Certified organic farms in the United States rose from 6,592 in 2000 to 8,445 in 2005.

Part of that interest to switch to organic agriculture is to fill demand from consumers and part is an interest in growing healthier food.

Dennis Johnson, a professor and dairy scientist with the University of Minnesota's West Central Research & Outreach Center in Morris, Minn., addressed organic dairying at the Central Plains Dairy Expo in Sioux Falls, S.D., March 21.

Johnson went through the process of becoming certified and helped producers decide if becoming organic is for them.

Johnson addressed considerations producers might evaluate on their farm if it's a system they want to consider because, as he said, it's certainly not for everyone.

Organic dairy farmer Rick Fonder of Milbank, S.D., agrees that organic dairying is not for everyone.

“Anybody can do this, but at the same time it's not for everybody,” Fonder said. “If you're the type of person, you see a weed out there, you're going to rush out there and spray it right away - forget it, it won't work for you.”

The first step in the three-year process to become a certified organic dairy producer begins with the soil and crops.

A producer needs to either begin growing crops without the use of chemicals or buy feed that has not had any chemicals applied to it while in the field.

For those growing their own crops, they need to work with their neighbors and county and townships to create buffers to keep out spraying.

“We have to establish a 25-foot buffer strip between our land and a neighbor's land that sprays or farms conventionally,” Fonder said. “The road ditch is our buffer as long as they don't spray it.”

Source: Minnesota Farm Guide
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