Letter to the Editor: Organic farming may save environment, health

Walking into your local grocery store and looking through the produce tends to be a daunting task. As a college student, budgets are tight and we know that is where a large portion of our grocery bill is spent. We as students want to eat healthy. However, we notice organic foods are priced higher than the non-organic foods. Which leads to asking, “Why?”

A social change is sweeping a nation of consumers who question conventionally-grown food products; many are switching to organic foods. According to the Department of Agriculture, organic food products have grown from $1 billion of net worth in 1997 to more than $30 billion of net worth today — a 3000 percent increase in 17 years. Clearly it is not just a fad. It is real, homegrown foods by a farmer for the consumer.

To grow organic food, it takes three years of transitioning conventional soil, prohibiting use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and synthetic fertilizer to the soil and crops. A USDA certifier will come visit the farm annually to verify everything is done by organic standards. There are strict policies that the government enforces for organic food production. Farming organically overall is a long-term plan and commitment.

Organic food sales have boomed over the last decade with the popularity of grocery stores such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. People are buying these foods not because they have more nutrition but for what they do not have, which is chemical residue. You have a choice between nearly zero chemical residue — organic — and 5 percent — conventional — of what the Food and Drug Association states as unsafe levels. This is a grass roots movement of a niche market that gives consumers a choice.

Locally grown organic foods are just an extension of what we in agriculture have done for centuries. People who are making the choice care more about how and why it is done. They are concerned about their overall health and taking proactive steps to stay healthy and stay out of the doctor’s office.

There are larger issues at stake for America we should be concerned with. According to the Autism Society, 1 in 88 children who are born have a condition of Autism. The Centers of Disease Control state that 1 in 4 Americans die from a heart disease each year and is the leading cause of death. 11 percent of children age 4 to 17 years old have been diagnosed with ADHD, and more than one-third of Americans are suffering from obesity. The total medical cost of these four outbreaks in society in recent years is $358 billion.

How does this correlate to food? Well, that is one thing that every single American has in common: we eat food. Now I am not here to preach that organic food will fix all of these problems. This is merely a movement people are taking charge in to fight against health-related problems. 

As a more environmental-conscious generation, improving the land is a key component for fueling the support. Organic farming does not involve any runoff of chemicals to creeks or rivers. These farming practices do not contribute to the increased pollution of water. It is more the lack of sustainability for conventional industrial agricultural practices. 

Where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico contains the second largest hypoxia areas in the world. In other words, there is a lack of oxygen in the water that creates an unsustainable area for fish to live. It is a dead zone. This issue took off in the 1970s when chemicals were first introduced. Environmentalists found that it is caused by runoff from conventional agricultural land. For more information, visit www.gulfhypoxia.net. 

I am proud to say I grew up on an organic farm, and once I graduate in May, I will go home to continue farming organically. I am part of the movement, and I am adapting to the changes in agriculture. Organic is not a “marketing scheme,” and it’s not a “profit scam.” It is a movement, a challenge and a happy lifestyle for my family and myself. 

Growth in consumer demand from 2012-13 is 8 percent, according to the USDA. The change speaks for itself. This is not a fad; I believe it is a social movement organized to make our planet more sustainable for future generations. I will not hold it against anyone if he or she chooses otherwise. I just want students to realize that there are two sides to every argument. For young farmers returning to their family farms, this is an opportunity — and for consumers, this is a choice. 

Is it worth it to pay a little more for organic foods? Frankly, that is a decision you have to make. 

On March 27, an article was published in the Iowa State Daily. Morgan Bahl was the author of “Organic food does not mean better food”. Bahl spoke out against the organic movement. I felt her facts were not well supported and was overly biased for non-organic foods. My article reaches out to the student population to provide better information about organic foods.