Streamlined systems, the latest tools and genetically modified crops help conventional farmers produce more in less time. No wonder many are reluctant to try something different like growing organic cotton. "It's just a whole different style of management than conventional farming," explains Texas farmer Kelly Pepper. He even describes good organic management as "intensive."
Organic farmers must develop an appreciation for the entire ecosystem surrounding their farmland, from the soil underfoot, to the symbiotic relationships of insects, to the life cycles of weeds. "The key to weed control is being in the field with the right tool on the right day," says Pepper. Certain weeds can be manually killed before they become deeply rooted. Quite a task for a large-scale operation. Quite an opportunity for family farmers, but not without risk. Pepper says, "The regular farmer isn't interested in making the change, even at a significant price premium."
Pepper manages the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative
, which tries to link US cotton growers with markets for their highly prized organic cotton. More than two dozen farms are currently growing between 10 and 15-thousand acres of organic cotton in Texas. The organic cotton industry has seen steady growth over the past decade, with that growth starting to taper off. Challenges include farmers adjusting to organic management practices, balance with market demands, and competition with international growers. For now, those of us interested in organic's benefits for us and the world around us have to be willing to pay a premium.
Labels: farming, organic, sustainable