You’ve heard the age-old saying before: "you are what you eat". In its earliest uses of the phrase, the French writer Anthelme Brillat-Savarin meant for it to be taken literally to describe one’s overall state of mind and health. So, intuitively, it comes as a no-brainer to favor eco-smart, health-conscious options next time we leisurely parade along our local produce aisle. This, an argument that organic farmers have strived to make for years, has often been paid little heed, as consumers and fellow farmers alike argue the extent of its benefits and economic feasibility.
In response, a recently published long-term study at the University of Minnesota hopes to erase these misconceptions by demonstrating the long-term sustainable and economic potential of organic practices over conventional methods.
The study, held over an 18-year period in Minnesota, not only demonstrated that organic farms had consistently comparable yields to conventional farms, but were also more profitable per acre when organic price premiums were taken into account. Moreover, long-term production costs per acre of land favored organic farming, as they spared the costs of pricey weed management treatments and pesticides, replaced by more natural and affordable irrigation and pest control methods.
Adding to the sustainability of the organic system, soil analyses for both farming plots were performed, revealing that conventional soils lost many of the minerals and nutrients necessary for consistent crop growth and disease prevention, as a consequence of the detrimental impacts of pesticides and chemical pest management. As a result, although conventional farms tended to demonstrate higher yields within the first few years of the study, organic farms had increasing yields of dependable crops with unchanging nutritional integrity as the study progressed.
As organic farming technologies develop to introduce alternative energy forms and reduce standard operating costs through wider-scale implementation, harvest efficiency and therefore yields are only expected to improve, thereby supplying an ever-increasing demand for organic products of all sorts. Due to expected increase in demand, consumers can also breathe a sigh of relief in reduced prices for currently expensive products in the near future.
Reflecting upon the results of this study provides further yet motivation for a not-so-distant vision in which organic practices are predominant. In giving farmers economic stability, organic farming is sure to open up more competitive global food markets which are bound to benefit consumers through health promotion and well being, as well as farmers through greater financial security and incentive.