I’m Mark Borchard and I’m the head farmer here at Earthbound Farm.
I’ve been a farmer for my entire life but have been farming organically for just under two years. Since I started, I have noticed a dramatic difference in my mindset related to what farming is. I’m a better farmer now. With organic farming, you become more intimate with the soil; you become more connected to the land.
It’s extremely rewarding to see my soil fertility improve based off of something I’m doing, instead of leaning on the crutch of synthetic fertilizers—which speed up plant growth but do nothing to enrich the content and composition of the soil. Of course, the additional benefit to not using synthetics is seeing the improved health and safety of my employees.
In conventional farming, almost 6 billion pounds of pesticides are used annually worldwide (as of 2012). The three most commonly used conventional pesticide active ingredients are: Glyphosate, Atrazine, Metolachlor-S. (Source) While effective at killing off pests and weeds, they are extremely dangerous and damaging chemicals to people—especially farm workers who are in close proximity to them on a daily basis.
The EPA knows that pesticides are dangerous and has developed the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) to “reduce the risk of pesticide poisoning and injury among agricultural workers and pesticide handlers.” (Source) Their regulations include, in part: Avoid getting on the skin or into the body any pesticides that may be on or in plants, soil, irrigation water, tractors, and other equipment, on used personal protective equipment, or drifting from nearby applications. Wash before eating, drinking, using chewing gum or tobacco, or using the toilet. Wear work clothing that protects the body from pesticide residues (long sleeved shirts, long pants, shoes and socks, and a hat or scarf). Wash or shower with soap and water, shampoo hair, and put on clean clothes after work. Wash work clothes separately from other clothes before wearing them again. (Source)
My farmers don’t have to do all that. They take proper sanitary and food safety precautions, but they can go home after work, straight from the field, and hug their kids without worrying about contaminating them with pesticides from their clothing. They can sleep well at night, knowing that they do not have to breathe in harmful chemicals during their workday.
As a father and a farmer, I am grateful to be farming organically now. I’ll be honest—I used to be a skeptic of organic farming. I used to think there were crops that would be impossible to produce. I also didn’t think it was possible to increase the health of the soil through natural practices, and I didn’t think that the yields of organic farming would ever come close to matching conventional farming. Was I wrong!
What I’ve learned is that with proper soil health and crop nutrition, the possibilities are endless. I’m excited about the potential of organic farming. I also feel so much better about my own health, the health of the land, and the health of my employees.
That is why I choose organic—for the farmers.