For more than thirty years, being old-fashioned has been the only way Atina and Martin Diffley would have it on their farm.
Picking the crops by hand with friends and neighbors, enjoying the beauty of food created by nature and nurture.
“It’s a relationship, a relationship with the land, the plants and the people,” Atina says.
What she does, and does well, is organic farming. What that means is very simple.
Organic farming for crops is producing the foods without using conventional pesticides and artificial fertilizers. It also means no artificial additives or preservatives in the food. In a way, organic farming is just farming – the way it used to be.
Organic farming is the fastest growing segment in agriculture. Minnesota is right up there in that growth sector.
According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, there are 560 certified organic farms in the state. If that doesn’t seem like a big number, consider the fact that there were less than three hundred five years ago.
Right now, Minnesota ranks fifth in the nation in terms of how much organic food we produce. Wisconsin is in second place, falling behind the national leader, California.
With numbers like that, one would think this area has plenty of organic farmers, but, the truth is we could use a few more.
“We don’t try to cover all growth,” Atina says of the big demand by the consumer for organic food. “What we do is we try to bring more farmers into the system.”
The reason why an organic farmer wants company is simple economic theory, supply is not keeping up with demand.
An organic farmer can only produce what the land will provide. There can be no tinkering with science to make more. That’s antithetical to the entire process of organics, so more land, farmed organically, is the only logical solution.
Meg Moynihan, with Minnesota’s Department of Agriculture, says some farmers may be tempted to do it for profit.
“You can be getting a lot of money for what you produce, the organic crop price this year has been tremendously high,” Moynihan says.
And, she says, the growth has only gotten more substantial year after year.
“Sales grew 22 percent in 2006 and that growth has been better than 15 percent for the last 10 years,” Moynihan points out.