In the United States, food that's grown locally and organically -- without the use of man-made fertilizers and pesticides -- is becoming increasingly popular with consumers. But the supply of organic foods is not keeping up with demand. This is an important issue among farmers and organic industry leaders. From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports.
Colorado farmer Anne Cure employs methods that are not in wide use in the U.S. Take her contented flock of quacking ducks and clucking hens. Instead of being caged indoors, night and day, they are kept in a large fenced yard with plenty of places to explore.
|Chickens and ducks on Anne Cure's farm|
Altogether, 200 chickens and ducks are being raised here. Anne Cure says they are just one part of what she calls a thriving family farm. "We grow about 100 varieties of vegetables, baby greens, lettuces, root crops, parsnips, carrots, beets, onions, turnips, to all the summer delights of heirloom tomatoes, and melons and basil - trying to keep diversity on the forefront, not only for the health of the land and to keep people interested in what we have and always have a new crop coming in."
In addition to more than three hectares of crops, Cure Organic Farm produces grass-fed lamb and pork. The chickens provide a steady supply of eggs. And the bees in the apiary produce honey for the farm, as well as pollinate the crops.
Anne Cure believes this way of growing food is so good for the environment, she would like more young people to choose the farming life, especially with the average age of American farmers now over 55.
"[It] definitely raises concern about new people coming into agriculture,” says Cure. “Not only are we losing more agricultural land because farmers are retiring without anyone to take their place, we're also losing a lot of knowledge that those farmers take with them that they could pass down to younger farmers. One of our goals is to train new farmers to get them [from the start] producing on a local level."
The City of Boulder also wants more people tilling the land organically. So it sponsors community gardens, including one just for teens. The kids here tend a variety of plots, such as the Pizza Garden, where they grow garlic, basil, tomatoes and other ingredients for pizza.
Seventeen-year old Bernabe Soto says, through gardening, he is more in tune with nature. "What happens when you garden, and especially organically, is that you get so in touch with the plants, that you actually see it grow, you actually see it live and breath."
In keeping with standard organic practice, the Cultiva kids do not use pesticides on their produce. That means more time checking for bugs, and more weeding. But that does not bother Bernabe, who thinks he might become a farmer.
"It's a good career,” he says. “And it makes you so happy. I love coming out here every morning and grabbing a beet from the ground and actually eating it for breakfast."
Back among those contented hens at Cure Organic Farms, Anne Cure says that even now, it is possible to make a living as an organic farmer -- maybe not an easy living, but certainly a good one.
"It depends on the lifestyle you choose to live,” says Cure. “My husband and I farm full-time. This is our occupation and our lifestyle. But farming is not just a job you go to in the morning and then get done when the clock says it is five o'clock. It is a lifestyle."
In the U.S. over the past decade, the demand for organic foods has been growing rapidly, averaging 20 percent increases each year. But the supply is not keeping up. Industry leaders say that if there were more community and government support for organic farming, more people might find that they are ready to become farmers.