Farmer Goes Organic: Shares His Thoughts

This isn’t a small scale farm.  This isn’t a new farmer.  He is 3rd generation and he owns and works 1400 acres of farmland. His name is Klaas Martens. His story is courtesy of EcoWatch.

Why would anyone want to change the only way they had ever known to farm, the way their fathers and grandfathers before them farmed?

Organic family farms

This is the organic family farm across from my house.

After spending an entire day spraying chemicals on his fields and despite his protective suit and mask, Martens lost the use of his right arm and had muscle spasms on his right side.

Eventually, he recovered the use of his arm and body but he just couldn’t bring himself to go back to growing with chemicals. “Going organic was the only decision we could morally make,” he said. “…it just would have been wrong to hire others to do work that I couldn’t do because it made me sick.

After chucking everything he knew about managing the land, Martens had to learn to farm all over again.  Without chemicals and herbicides, he didn’t really know how to grow and protect his crops.

So, how did he learn new methods to handle threats to his crops? The old-fashioned way; he did research.  One day, he read a quote by a German agricultural researcher that changed his way of thinking:

“Cultural practices form the basis of all weed control. Various other means should be regarded as auxiliary only,” wrote Bernard Rademacher, an early researcher in weed management.

Instead of trying to control the weeds, Martens realized he should be looking at why the weeds were there – what practice was he using that made his farm a good habitat for weeds?

Martens’ answer? Don’t fight the weeds; understand them. Completely and fully, within the context of everything else around them.

Converting his farm wasn’t easy for Martens but he and his wife learned a lot in the process and shared a lot in a two part article for Rodale Institute.  Part 2 of the Farms R Us article has a nice list of resources for anyone who would like to take a deeper dive into converting to organic farming.

It was risky and a bit scary to make the switch but the couple has enjoyed growing organically, finding markets for their crops and knowing that they no longer add poisons to the earth or the water.

If a man farming 1400 acres can go organic, every backyard gardener should be able to do the same.  If you are an organic gardener, you already know that weeds can tell you volumes about the health of your soil and your gardening practices.

Take a note from Martens, listen to your weeds. Once you get a handle on why they are happy to grow in your garden, you have two choices:

  1. Find out what organic methods you can use to get your soil back on track and move the weeds to your neighbors’ gardens.
  2. Grow and eat them! Dandelions, purslane and chickweed are free greens and I enjoy them as much as I do my kale, spinach and leaf lettuce!

Going organic isn’t hard; it;s just different.  And the conversion takes a bit of research and a bit of thought.  What better month than January to do both?

Advertisements

7 responses to “Farmer Goes Organic: Shares His Thoughts

  1. I love this. Yes, you have to re-educate yourself–but learning can be fun; damn hard work, but fun. And besides, what rewards! (Including, quite possibly, your life!)

    • I love that he just couldn’t bear to hire someone to do the work he couldn’t do because they would get sick, as well. At his core, he is an ethical man.

  2. Pingback: Farmer Goes Organic: Shares His Thoughts | Grow So Easy Organic – WORLD ORGANIC NEWS

  3. Brave people and ethical too, lovely to see this happening. Hope the farmer has totally recovered his health now.

    • I think he has… You are right about being brave. It took courage for them to change everything they knew and had known all their lives and try a whole new approach to what they do for their livelihood.

  4. Thanks for sharing this! It’s encouraging to read a reversal of conventional practices. This man is a good leader and inspiration. Loved it!

    • I loved that he had the courage to make the change and that he is willing to talk about it. The older we get (me included) the harder it is sometimes to make a significant change in practice or belief. He did both.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s