This post was adapted from an address given at the recent Eco-Farm conference in California.

When a friend told me of two of the proposed discussion topics for a major agricultural conference — “What is so radical about radical agriculture?” and “Is small the only beautiful?” — I told him that I thought both questions had the same answer.  Let me see if I can explain.

The radical idea behind by organic agriculture is a change in focus.  The new focus is on the quality of the crops grown and their suitability for human nutrition.  That is a change from the more common focus on growing as much quantity as possible and using whatever chemical techniques contribute to increasing that quantity.

None of the non-chemical techniques associated with organic farming are radical or new.  Compost, crop rotations, green manures and so forth are age-old agricultural practices.  What is radical is the belief that these time-proven “natural” techniques produce food that is more nourishing for people and livestock than food grown with chemicals.  What is radical is successfully pursuing that “unscientific” belief against the counter-propaganda and huge commercial power of the agrochemical industry.