In some areas, farmers trying to make a go of growing organic crops aren’t the most respected people in the community. One farmer recently related that he wished his neighbor would keep his weed seeds at home. In this case, the organic farmer’s fields were often full of weeds, and his crops lingered in the field until January.
It doesn’t help when you hear that samples of organic seed submitted for approval at state labs can contain roughly 20 different kinds of weed seeds. Or when someone tells you the only dairy producer they know of who sold organic milk finally went out of business.
If you dig around a bit, however, you’ll find that’s only one side of the picture. There are definitely two images of organic farmers. On the other side of the coin are farmers who are recognized and respected, some who even have been named Master Farmers, and they’re raising a small amount of organic grain because they see profit potential.
In fact, one farmer whom I respect as one of the most progressive in Indiana recently told me he was setting aside a small portion of his acreage and going through the process to have it certified as organic land so he could grow organic crops. Why? Because he sees a market and profit potential.
This second image of organic farmers includes those who will figure out ways to get rid of weeds without using chemicals. Their neighbors won’t have to worry about weed seeds drifting onto their property.
Still more farmers are staying closer to the mainstream and growing non-GMO crops for food product markets. If there weren't a demand, there wouldn’t be people ready to issue contracts for growing non-GMO grain.
Perception is reality
Every time I open a bottle of my favorite orange juice, I remove a seal that says "Non-GMO Verified." As we’ve mentioned before, verifying products as non-GMO has become a cottage industry.
At least to this point, I’m not aware of any GMO oranges out there. So why put a non-GMO seal on orange juice? Because it’s all about perception! There is a segment of society that may not understand the science, but they have fallen for the diatribe that GMOs in some way aren’t healthy. So if they see a non-GMO label, they figure it must be healthier. The fact that there’s no difference and that the company that bottled the orange juice could probably sell it cheaper if they didn’t go through the non-GMO verification process never crosses their mind.
Perception is reality, and the reality is that it appears more products are showing up in grocery shelves bearing "organic" or "non-GMO" labels. A recent report from CoBank, a bank for cooperatives, backs up this claim.
According to the report, the demand for organic and non-GMO products in the U.S. is so great that imports of these products rose sharply in 2016. There simply weren’t enough organic or non-GMO products grown in the U.S. to meet demand.
Maybe this explains why some of Indiana’s best farmers are looking at organic and non-GMO opportunities differently today. They see it as a way to grow and sell for a premium.
Here is just one bit of advice. Do your homework first. Make sure you can still maintain the standards you are used to and not wind up with the type of fields that give organic farming a bad name.