Your Influence Counts ... Use It! The SPOTLIGHT by Liberty Lobby

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Eco-Farming For Health, Profit

  • As farmers look to provide to the growing market of consumers who want natural foodstuffs, they're reaping healthy earnings.

You are what you eat, according to an old saying, and that explains why so many people feel miserable. Today's fruits, vegetables, meats and poultry are often loaded with poisons.

Many Americans are sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. As a consequence, the health food market is booming. One particular area that is proving fertile for farmers is organic agriculture, i.e., eco-farming.

Organic agriculture is not only good for the environment and yields foods that are healthier eating for consumers, but it can be highly profitable for the farmer.

In an era in which the typical American farmer, the backbone of our nation, is losing his shirt, this is an important consideration. It is also a slap at chemical companies and medicrats who have been poisoning you for years.

One farmer in Pennsylvania's Lancaster County is showing how it can be done. Roman Stoltzfoos and his family farm 210 acres in the area of Gap and Kinzer. Sixty acres are dairy cattle pasture, while about 80 acres are in a diversity of crops.

Diversity is one of the keys to success in this business. By having no more than 10 percent of your enterprises in any one crop, you largely eliminate the problem of bad years, which can easily wipe out the average farmer.

The Stoltzfoos family started out using a mixture of organic and conventional farming methods. But today everything on the farm is 100 percent organic. Nineteen-eighty-six "was the last time I regularly used chemicals," says Stoltzfoos. That was the year they tried out half-rate use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

"I used them a few times since then just to prove to myself that they don't work."

Other than controlling flies on the cattle, insects and weeds are Stoltzfoos' smallest problem. One serious problem is obtaining a steady supply of organic feed for the livestock at a reasonable price. "But as long as we get a premium for our product, I don't mind those farmers getting a premium for their product," he says.


Stoltzfoos keeps about 90 cows, with another 80 or so young stock. He minimizes the time the animals spend in the barn, seeking to get them out onto fresh paddocks as often as possible. Feeding the cattle fresh grass is one of the keys to his operation. It improves quality, cuts costs, improves the health of the herd, and leads to fewer manure handling chores.

This farmer doesn't have much problem with cattle straying. "When you give a cow a new paddock with every milking, you don't have problems with them getting out," Stoltzfoos says.

The Stoltzfooses raise about 40 acres of corn along with some soybeans and alfalfa. Organic turkeys are another major part of the farm, with 10,000 raised every year. The farm also produces about 1,000 tons of finished compost annually, through an arrangement in which another man provides all of the labor in return for half of the finished compost. The compost that is not used right on the farm is then marketed regionally.

Stoltzfoos estimates his investment is composting at 40,000 to $50,000. "Composting is an art. Not everybody can do it. Most give up. It's not easy," he says.

Their organic milk is sold through two or three different companies. Any milk that is not marketed as organic, is merely sold at bulk milk prices.

Currently the Stoltzfooses milk primarily Holsteins, along with a few Dutch belts, a breed that does well in hot weather and has good foraging characteristics. But he says he is thinking of going to an all-Jersey herd like many of the surrounding farmers.

When cows are culled from the herd Stoltzfoos gets about twice the usual market price for the beef, because his meat is organic. "There is an unlimited market for organic beef,' he says. And he plans to expand his production of grass fed beef meet that demand.


Conventional turkey growers say you cannot raise the birds without drugs. But, bucking that advice, Stoltzfoos marketed his first flock of organic and drug-free turkeys in 1989. Marketing them himself, Stoltzfoos easily sells all of his turkeys at about twice the "nominal' rate for conventional birds. Where turkeys typically sell for 40 to 50 cents a pound. Stoltzfoos gets about 95 cents.

Turkeys and cows contribute about equally to the farm's bottom line, but the birds require far less labor and are providing a better return on investment.

Additionally, Stoltzfoos markets about 75,000 organic and drug-free chickens (broilers) from another farm each year.

The answers for America's troubled family farms do not lie with government, Stoltzfoos believes. Solutions must be found by the farmers themselves, at home on the farm.

Says the innovative farmer: "A lot of organic consumers understand that everybody has to profit and they are concerned that the farmer is getting his share. I really believe the day will come when we return to a 1930 scenario where you went to the farmer and bought your milk and some butter and some cheese.