Could Confidence In Organics Be Overblown?

As our farm members, online followers and friends know, we now only purchase organic feed. There are a few reasons why.  Organic grains are grown without  synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides so they are better for our environment. Because they are grown without the chemicals, they are more nutrient dense and better for our livestock. Most importantly for me, using organic feed is the surest way to be confident that we are not feeding Genetically Modified Organisms to the animals who in turn nourish us. After coming to grips with what GMOs are, I tried to find a way around them.

Someone told me about a co-op that purchased bulk organic feed from Reedy Fork Farm and Feed Mill. I got on their email list and studied the price list, trying to figure out how to manage switching to organic feed that is considerably more expensive than conventional feed. I called up the farmer who headed up the co-op to get his take on switching over to organic feed. What he told me was somewhat disheartening. He told me that there is no money to be made feeding organic feed because consumers will not pay more than $5.00/dozen for eggs nor would they pay more than $4.50/lb for chicken.  He said that this was the reason he was no longer feeding organic, he was just keeping the co-op going to supply those who still wanted it. He urged me to look into a feed mill in Northwest GA that was producing non-GMO, conventional feed and so I did. I bought three tons of their feed and found out later that they could not promise me their feed was non-GMO for the next order. The last email I got from the Reedy Fork Co-op was that it was shutting down because the one coordinating it didn’t have time for it, especially since he was no longer feeding organic, and everyone was now on their own.

I had been going through the headache of finding a solution to the GMO conundrum along with my friends at My Dad and Me Family Farm. We agreed that the only way to ensure that we were collectively producing the best food possible (sans GMOs and Soy) was to go organic. We crunched numbers, prayed and one day they called me up and announced that they were now Countryside organics dealers. Here we are a year later, hundreds of chickens, thousands of eggs behind us, and now raw milk. It took us a good bit of trial and error to understand how to feed the organic feed rather than the crumbled soy and additive loaded conventional GMO feed to grow out a broiler, and the trick to keeping hens happy is just keep the feed available at all times. We also learned that alfalfa had been genetically modified and we started buying alfalfa pellets for our cows.

I think back to the statement made by guy who told me no one would pay more for eggs or chicken that was fed organic feed. Well he was wrong and customers of mine and My Dad & Me proved it. We found that once people were educated on what the significance was in feeding organic feed to produce the best food possible, they are glad to support it.

So how does all this even come close to reconciling the title of this post? Well I’ll tell you. A couple of days ago, I spotted a post on Facebook by the farmer who told me no one would pay for organic fed chicken and eggs. He had put up a picture of some free range chickens, out on a pasture, next to a shelter. I immediately recognized this as a photo of White Oak Pastures in Blufton, GA. His caption read “Pastured poultry or not in this photo? Anyone up for a respectful discussion?” Now at first one would perceive that he took the photo himself, but it came out that he had lifted the photo from the web. Below is the exact picture he posted.

 Everyone is certainly entitled to an opinion, but it is not fair to declare one based on one photo that shows such a narrow view. I’ve been to White Oak Pastures. I sat and talked with Mr. Harris. He gave me free rein to look at anything there on his farm. I walked among the shelters that the meat chickens leave and enter at will. This other farmer has not, and yet in a public forum, drives what is easily perceived as a smear campaign against another farmer. But he didn’t stop there.

The discussion soon turned to organic feed and the challenge for small farmers to source it and afford it. I made the statement that the tide was slowly turning and that there actually were small farms feeding organic feed and that as the concerned public continued to support those farmers and the farmers with the goal of going organic, the demand for organic feed would be such that it would be on a more level playing field as the conventional, GMO grains and we would see a decline in the cost. THIS is where it got really interesting and is where the inspiration for the title came from. The farmer I have not named stated (and I quote), “The confidence in certified organic feed is overblown containing soy, corn or alfalfa. There is no testing required by USDA or done by most feed mills, Countryside included unless things have changed recently…” This statement astounded me. Wow, what a revelation. I then asked if he was implying whether Countryside, Coyote Creek and Reedy Fork could be lying or are these feed mills just as duped as the rest of us. He replied, “You’re not lying if you don’t know… I know this stuff is hard to stomach but it is true. GMO are in there.”

Jaw dropping is what this is, and a slap in the face to the folks who operate the feed mills and the farmers who work their tails off to provide organic grain to those mills. I saw that I needed to move on but I let him know that I’d pass this news on to the before mentioned feed mills. And I did. I sent email messages to all three mills, letting them know of this newsflash that has come out on Facebook. Of course they all had some choice words to say on the matter. Which is what I will discuss in my next post. I fear I have rambled on long enough here.

It is an affront to treat falsehood with complaisance.

Thomas Paine

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