Organic Sense

Organic Solutions

by George L. Siemon, Organic Valley CEO  on November 15, 2009

It was a pleasure to get positive feedback from our first Organic Sense posts. We are excited to have this format to share views from Organic Valley and myself. I won’t be able to respond to everyone’s comments but appreciate the input and will try and cover some of the questions as we go along.

As an organic business, we take the word “organic” beyond food and try to incorporate organic as a philosophy into all of our discussions. Running an organic business “organically” brings a host of perspectives to the table and requires us to be holistic in seeking a balance to our thinking and actions.

Following the debates on feeding the future population and climate change has been painful because everyone is addressing a very complex equation using reductionist thinking and solutions. Solving a problem caused by reductionist thinking with more reductionist thinking will only result in more troubles. We need so badly to consider all parts of the whole to make a solution.

In the New York Times op-ed, “Food, Humanity, Habitat and How We Get to 2050,” the author discusses the United Nations report on future food demands of our growing population, debating whether we can meet our human needs while also preserving biodiversity. Biodiversity, though, is just the beginning of what we need to bring into the discussion—we need to also include consideration of the human cultures, education, diets and sustainability at all levels, including water tables and global organic matter. These elements should all be major foci as we speed into the future facing 40% more people on an already overworked planet by 2050. Despite the optimism of the United Nations in their consideration of how to feed the future populations, there is plenty of evidence that we may already have reached peak food, water and oil. The subject of “peak food” will be a topic that we will discuss more in Organic Sense at another time.

 One of the issues we hear in the climate change discussion is the effect of agriculture, and especially the livestock component. The advocates for an agriculture without livestock are making bold claims that eating livestock products is a major cause of global warming, so I was glad to see another recent New York Times op-ed, “Carnivore’s Dilemma,” which brought a better perspective to the discussion and separated industrial livestock operations from biological systems like grass-based and organic. Certainly livestock and other mammals are part of the natural balance and must be part of a balanced agriculture.

On the subject of Climate Change, I highly recommend checking out the Rodale Institute  (who Organic Valley is working with on many levels) to see their great research on advantages of organic agriculture regarding carbon sequestration.

Recently, I attended the inspiring Bioneers Conference in San Rafael, CA, which if you have never attended, you should consider. Find out if there is a satellite conference near you in the next few weeks, or the date for next year’s conference. Also get the list of their award winning educational radio shows. Their focus on biological solutions for our human culture and technology is very powerful. I love the concept and efficiencies that are being found in “biomimicry,” which is very much at the heart of what Bioneers is promoting.

What amazes me is how many answers an organic perspective offers to so many different challenges. Working with and mimicking natural systems are such simple guidelines that really do address so many of our problems today. I am optimistic now that we have all the solutions we need, and now we need the will to apply them.

In closing, I’d like to share a couple of my favorite proverbs with you. At Organic Valley, we use the expression “Nature is our teacher.” I also love these old proverbs: “Nature is conquered by obeying her,” and “He that follows nature is never out of his way.”

In Cooperation,

George L. Siemon

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Comments

George from from Organic Valley, La Farge, WI on December 4, 2009 at 08:50:46 AM
We are working with the California producers to understand the additional cost they have to produce organic milk. We have a farmer committee that makes recommendations on pay price for different regions and in addition, the California producers have provided financial data to support an additional pay price increase. Organic dairy is not in a growth mode and combined with the competitive pressures, it makes it difficult to give increases. Fortunately, purchased feed is a major cost for those dairies and that cost has come down significantly in the last year so that has been very helpful. Our goal is to make organic dairy sustainable for the land, healthy for the consumers and profitable for the farmers.
DON from from CALIFORNIA on November 29, 2009 at 07:36:20 PM
George, We know Organic dairy farmers in California. They are having a very hard time with all the costs of doing business in CA. Has Organic Valley evaluated what it takes to cover the costs in CA? We enjoy your Organic milk and appreciate local dairies and hope they can keep doing business here. Thanks Don
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