By Dr. Mercola
Will Allen, owner of Cedar Circle Farm in Vermont, has spent the last 14 years pioneering a process where a relatively small farming community feeds thousands of locals, and teaches them about organic urban agriculture. He is widely recognized as a pioneer in the organic agriculture movement.I visited Will’s farm in Vermont last year just prior to attending the BioChar conference. We did the interview at his farm. Their community-supported agriculture (CSA) program has 200 households in it during the summer, and another 100 households join their fall program.
“When we first started out, we decided that it’s going to be an educational farm because most of the farmers right now are not producing young farmers,” he says. “We’re trying to train the next generation of farmers and trying to change farming by training that generation to be organic and community-focused…We have several young people and middle-aged people who got trained here and who are now running their own farms. We put them through a program where they have to be here two or three years. But they get paid a regular salary; it’s not like an apprentice program,” he says.
His farm sells produce within a 50-mile radius, and his customers include local restaurants, co-ops, and farmer’s markets. Well over 1,000 children visit the farm each year, and the farm even runs a farm-to-school program with the local grammar school and high school. There’s also a backyard garden program, where budding gardeners can learn the tricks of the trade.
What’s Old Is New: Pesticide-Free Crop Growing Techniques
Allen has been part of the organic movement for about 40 years. When he first began, he had the first organic farm in the San Joaquin Valley in California. Rather than relying on chemical pest control, Allen used age-old principles of fighting pests with beneficial insects.Eventually, he became director of the Rural Toxics Program for the California Institute for Rural Studies, which did outreach programs to cotton growers. Cotton is actually one of the most toxic crops there is. Over half of all the pesticides used worldwide are used on cotton.“We were able to teach cotton growers how to grow organic cotton, and we did an outreach to 62 clothing companies,” Allen says.As a result of this outreach, a number of well-known brands have switched over to organic cotton, including Patagonia, which uses nothing but organic cotton for its line of clothing. About 18 percent of Nike’s clothing line is now also organic.“We did it kind of in the same way the chemical companies do it. See, they’re drug dealers. I mean, the chemical companies are the old dye companies of the 1800s, and then they became pharmaceutical companies…The way drug dealers sell stuff is they give it away at first, until you get hooked… We did exactly the same thing with cotton… We were able to give 150 growers 30 acres of cotton that we monitored, and we released the beneficial insects on their cotton fields….The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program was developed at the University of California, the Division of Biological Control. They finally phased it out in 2001, but it was an incredible program that taught people how to use biological integrative pest management.”The way it works is that adult insects look for nectar. The nymphs they produce in turn look for meat and chitin, the outer shell of insects, which they need for their metamorphosis. The nymphs provide the bulk of the pest control in this way. To entice these beneficial insects into the fields, all you really have to do is plant nectar-producing flowers near the crop, and nature will take care of the rest.
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