Opinion/Editorial Archive

The Adventure of Organic Farming

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

Eliot Coleman has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of organic farming, including field vegetables, greenhouse vegetables, rotational grazing of cattle and sheep, and range poultry. He is the author of The New Organic Grower, Four Season Harvest, and the Winter Harvest Handbook. He produces year-round vegetable crops, even under harsh winter conditions (for which he uses unheated and minimally heated greenhouses and polytunnels).

by Eliot Coleman

Eliot Coleman

For someone like me, whose passions, before I began as an organic farmer, included other supposedly impossible activities like rock climbing, mountaineering, and white water kayaking, organic farming has always felt like an adventure – an adventure into a new part of the natural world – the miraculous part beneath our feet. Exploring the mysteries of the soil doesn’t involve high altitude cold or vertical rock faces or raging rivers but it still offers the same sense of accomplishment, of satisfaction, and of excitement. So, thanks to that adventurer’s background, when I first became interested in food and farming some 50 years ago in 1965, I was imbued with the adventurer’s ethic.

That ethic is crafted on minimalism, respect for the natural world, and independence. Adventurers want to experience the boundaries of the natural world as purely and cleanly as possible guided by the decisions they make themselves. The ideal in climbing is to avoid all artificiality, to have little need for superfluous technology, and to attain the closest possible intimacy between the adventurers and the reality of the world around them. The dream is to seek out challenges, succeed at doing them, and leave a pristine world for others to follow – to pass through a landscape like sunlight through wind. The goal is in doing it elegantly, and the delight is derived from that accomplishment. Read Full Article »

Do We Want Organic Agriculture, or Just Organic Food?

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: Cornucopia contends organic is a system of land and environmental stewardship, not just the absence of chemicals. Enjoy this commentary below by Matthew Hoffman of the Norwegian Centre for Rural Research.

“hydroponics is not organic — it’s not even agriculture”
Greenhorns blog
by Matthew Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman

The farmers market in Jack London Square in Oakland, California was a bustling scene when I worked there in the late 1990s, and my customers liked to tell me how devoted they were to organic agriculture.

I remember one devotee in particular.  Her tote bag bulged with produce and her brow wrinkled beneath the brim of her floppy hat as she stopped one day to study the sign above my new display of organic flowers.  At length she turned to me and said, “How can flowers be organic?”

This was not the first time that I realized a devoted customer had no idea what organic meant.  So I explained to her about how organic farmers take care of the land, maintaining healthy soil and a healthy environment for plants to grow in without the use of synthetic chemicals—and how organic practices apply just the same to flowers and fields of grass as to lettuces and bell peppers.

She nodded thoughtfully and seemed to appreciate this explanation, but then she frowned again and asked, “What does it matter if you’re not eating them?”

Then it was my turn to stare and wrinkle my brow as the gears slowly turned in my head. Read Full Article »

Veteran Organic Grower Questions What Technologies are Appropriate in Organics

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Steve Sprinkel is a certified organic farmer from Ojai, California, where he also operates the Farmer and the Cook, a restaurant and market serving organic fare. He has held numerous leadership positions in the organic movement, including having acted as the board chair of The Cornucopia Institute. He currently sits on Cornucopia’s formal policy advisory panel.

Roiling Sargassos of Plasticene Smoothies
In Season for Edible Ojai, Saticoy and Simi Valley, 6 January 2017
by Steve Sprinkel

Steve Sprinkel testifies at
the spring 2015 NOSB meeting

When consumers want something better than they are being offered, they almost always get their way. You want arugula? How much? How about chocolate grown by people in the Ivory Coast with access to potable drinking water? Local honey? Tangerines with no seeds? Organic ice cream without carrageenan? The strange democracy of the market complies.

Trucks full of Coke are still rolling everywhere because everyone isn’t spooked about the downside claims. People want it, so they get it. Public agencies try to legislate Coke into oblivion but consumers still crave those amber bubbles. Yet, look at all the groovy, healthier, fizzy drinks crowding the display case. Consumers started buying alternatives in small quantities and now you can get rivers of longevity elixirs at Walmart.

Though sometimes it’s not as simple as letting the market place sort the process out. Read Full Article »

Letter from Eliot Coleman

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

Through his iconic books, Eliot Coleman has been a mentor to many organic farmers over the years. He was also very generous with his time when I was starting out as a certified organic producer almost 30 years ago.

The antidote for the concerns Eliot articulates in his essay below is the constant vigilance that Cornucopia members underwrite and the economic power we all have in the marketplace when we use the organic brand scorecards we have developed to “vote” for the true heroes in the organic movement.



ecofarmconference-2017When I sat down at my desk this morning, I noticed the EcoFarm brochure on a pile of recent mail. My first thought, because of Friday’s cave-in to hydro at the NOSB [Nov. 18], was that this well-established meeting of devoted organic advocates was the perfect venue for an organic last stand. The EcoFarm conference should have set aside time for a serious discussion of the hydroponic invasion and the future of true organic farming.

But when I opened the brochure it was nowhere to be found. I wondered why. Then I saw that the leading financial sponsor of EcoFarm was Driscoll’s, one of the larger hydroponic invaders, plus sponsorships from other OTA co-opters like Organic Valley. Then I realized that CCOF, once a respected movement leader, is behind the scenes making big bucks certifying the hydro people. Read Full Article »

Biology at Its Best: The Good Food Movement

Friday, November 11th, 2016

Cornucopia’s Take: Enjoy this editorial from ACRES USA, reprinted with permission. Fred Walters expounds on how the food movement stands apart from other social movements and ideologies.

View from the Country
by Fred Walters

view-from-the-country_logoThe good news is the excitement, vitality and innovation found within the food movement is here to stay. That is for certain.

Jonathan Latham, Ph.D., writing in a brilliant essay in the online publication Independent Science News (www.independent sciencenews.org), recently recited the many reasons the food movement won’t be disappearing anytime soon. While most social movements have a few traits in common, the food movement stands apart, quite different from them all.

He points out that unlike most ideology-based movements, the food movement is a leaderless movement, a grassroots move­ment, international, low-budget, and a movement of many values.

The prime reason the food movement is here to stay, according to Latham, is that unlike other systems of thought, the food movement philosophy is based on a biological understanding of the world. Read Full Article »