On Sunday, October 8, farmers and pioneers of the organic movement will assemble for a Rally to Keep the Soil in Organic, in Burlington, Vermont. Join a tractor cavalcade at noon, led by the Brazilian drumming ensemble “Sambatucada” and a parade of farmers and organic eaters to the Intervale Center at 180 Intervale Rd. (parking at Gardeners Supply), followed by short speeches from leaders in the organic movement, including Senator Bernie Sanders (tentative), Eliot Coleman, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, Maddie Monty, Christa Alexander, and Pete Johnson. More than 50 regional farms are expected to attend.
There are 16 rallies scheduled so far to publicly oppose the weakening of USDA Organic labeling standards and to demand that the National Organic Program preserve soil as the foundation of all organic farming. Rallies are being organized in England, Canada, Costa Rica and across the United States from California to Maine.
A large rally will take place in Hanover, NH on October 15 at 2 p.m. The final rally will take place at the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting on October 31 in Jacksonville, Florida.
Keep the Soil in Organic: Farmers Weigh In
Pioneer Eliot Coleman has written, “The importance of fertile soil as the cornerstone of organic farming is under threat. The USDA is allowing soil-less hydroponic vegetables to be sold as certified organic without saying a word about it. Just when today’s agronomists and nutritionists are finally becoming aware of the crucial influence of soil quality on food quality, the USDA is trying to unilaterally dismiss that connection by removing soil fertility from the National Organic Program definition of organic. The encouragement of “pseudo-organic” hydroponics is just the latest in a long line of USDA attempts to subvert the non-chemical promise that organic farming has always represented. Without soil, there is no organic farming. The USDA is defrauding customers who expect certified organic crops to be grown on optimally fertile soil as they always have been.
I believe it is our duty as organic farmers to defend the integrity of what has been handed down to us by our forebears. The protection of that heritage is a responsibility that I don’t take lightly. The importance of optimal soil fertility as the bedrock of organic farming has to be transmitted accurately to future generations, so they can continue this effort. Since the USDA refuses to stop this hydroponic/organic fraud, I am asking all serious organic farmers to take effective action themselves. A large group of deeply committed organic farmers are staging a protest at the NOSB meeting in Jacksonville, Florida at noon on October 31. I am going to be there and I hope you will join us.”
Vermont organic farmer Dave Chapman said, “Most organic growers would not consider a tomato grown in a little bag of coconut husk suspended 3 feet over the ground and fed entirely through an IV drip system to be organically grown. Virtually all of the tomatoes labeled as ‘organic’ in large chain stores (such as Wal-Mart) will soon be hydroponic tomatoes from Mexico and California. People might not realize they are buying factory food that has never touched the soil.”
Unchallenged, the hydroponic industry will transform the certified organic produce that is available to most Americans from soil-grown to hydroponic. The products from confined livestock operations already undersell the farms using humane, sustainable and regenerative practices.
As rallies have grown in size and in number over the past three years, it is clear that the trend toward a just and transparent food system that promotes soil health, ecological health and human health has only just begun.