On George and Cherry's gorgeous 800 acre organic farm just west of Greensboro, North Carolina, organic was not always the order of things. "We were a typical conventional operation," George says, " which means we were constantly trying to boost production, going into more debt to do that, and doing all the work for our cows." But just a few short years ago, George went on an organic farm tour, and when he came back, Cherry says, he was a changed man. "I'm sold on the idea that grazing is the backbone of the farm," George says.
Getting to that point was a slow process, George admits. Cherry and their daughter, Hayley, had been advocating for organic for years, "but when we said the word organic, he wouldn't even discuss it." George laughs at that. "I was just a typical farmer. I couldn't see doing it any other way. It did not seem possible."
For her part, Cherry didn't see how they could do anything worse than what they were doing. It really coalesced in her mind one day when a valve broke off a spray tank that had 1000 gallons of gramoxon (an organophosphate pesticide) mixed in it; the only way to stop the spill was for George to jam his hand into the hole. He was completely soaked with the stuff in the process. "I thought I was going to lose him," Cherry says. "After that, I knew that this could not go on. There had to be a better way." George adds, "After each day of spraying I'd calculate how many days I knocked off of my life. And then realized it was adding up to years."
There's no more fear on the Teague farm today. "We haven't used the nitrogen fertilizer in three years," George says, "and our pastures are just as green as the next guy's. Our soil is so much healthier, it does the work for us." For one of the biggest banes of the farm, namely flies, the Teagues use biodynamic fly control in the form of fly predators that they release periodically to control the pest species which were particularly hard on the calves. Cherry's in charge of the calving program on the farm and she can't believe the difference. "When we used to spray chemicals for fly control, I swear there used to be even more flies."