As the demand for organic products continues to rise, growers may consider transitioning their production systems to organic ones. Marty Mesh, executive director of Florida Organic Growers, discusses the benefits and challenges of organic production.
According to Mesh, perhaps the biggest benefit of organics is that data proves organic growers have a better bottom line. Moreover, organic production can benefit the environment by producing healthy soil, reducing non-renewable energy needs and being a potential solution to climate change. Mesh says organic production can also improve labor and boost local economies.
Despite the many benefits of organic production, growers should be aware of the challenges as well. Organic growers basically have the same issues that traditional growers do, but they have less tools to use as solutions to those issues. Organic growers cannot use the usual chemicals to fend off pests and unwelcomed weeds.
In Florida, Mesh says weeds are a big problem. Research is still being done to determine best practices to reduce weeds organically. Another big challenge of organic production is pest management. Mesh recommends trap cropping or companion plantings. Planting anything that will attract pests to distract them from the cash crop seems to be a best practice.
Although there are challenges to organic production, Mesh believes the benefits far outweigh them. “A lot of farmers are embracing the challenges. Once they see the benefits, they figure out how to deal with the issues,” he says. Furthermore, Mesh notes that humans have a responsibility to nurture the soil and water because they are resources. Growing organically can help humans fulfill that responsibility. “Farmers choose organics because they want a better future for themselves and their families,” Mesh concludes.
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