Organic farmers will join together for “Rally in the Valley”

For Immediate Release – October 13, 2016

Organic farmers join together for “Rally in the Valley”

Event shines light on the importance of soil as the foundation of organic growing

Thetford, Vermont — The organic farmers and eaters of northern New England will be gathering at noon on Sunday, Oct 30 at Cedar Circle Farm in East Thetford, Vermont to make their voices heard by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) regarding the inclusion of hydroponics in organic certification.  

Since its inception in 1990, the National Organic Program (NOP), a department of the USDA, has been charged with maintaining meaningful and strictly enforced standards for organic certification. Despite a 2010 recommendation from its advisory board (the NOSB) stating that hydroponic should not be considered organic, the NOP has continued to allow certification of soilless production. Whereas organic farming has always been based on protecting and enhancing the health and vitality of the soil, hydroponic systems rely on soilless growing mediums and nutrient feeding solutions.

The NOSB will be having a crucial vote in mid-November to decide whether to keep the soil in organic, or to allow hydroponic—a growing corporate agribusiness—to dominate the organic industry. In recent years, an explosion of hydroponically grown berries, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and lettuce have been showing up on grocery store shelves, labeled as organic, but unmarked as hydroponic.

“Most organic growers would not consider a tomato grown in a little bag of coconut husk suspended 3 feet over the ground and fed entirely through an IV drip system to be organically grown,” explained Dave Chapman, an organizer of the event and owner of Long Wind Farm, which specializes in organic tomatoes. “Virtually all of the tomatoes labeled as ‘organic’ in large chain stores (such as Wal-Mart) will soon be hydroponic tomatoes from Mexico. People might not realize they are buying factory food that has never touched the soil.”

Unchallenged, the hydroponic industry will transform the “certified organic” produce that is available to most Americans: from soil-grown to hydroponic. There will be no way of knowing what is hydroponic, and what is not.

Vermont’s Congressional delegation—Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders, and Congressman Welch—have written public letters to the USDA supporting soil-based organic farming. Along with 40 international organizations and over a thousand organic farmers and supporters, they have called for a moratorium on all new hydroponic organic certifications until this failed system can be fixed.

“The vote at the upcoming NOSB meeting in St. Louis is incredibly important,” says Davey Miskell, of Miskell’s Premium Organics. “It’s important, not just for our industry, but for the health of the planet. We want to be heard loudly and clearly that this is not what organic means. We won’t get a second chance to keep the soil in organic.”

Supporters and spectators are invited to convene for the Rally in the Valley at Cedar Circle Farm, 225 Pavillion Road, East Thetford, Vermont. There will be a tractor cavalcade leading a parade of farmers and organic eaters, speeches by leaders in the organic movement, including U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, delicious wood-fired pizza baked in the NOFA Vermont mobile pizza oven, and live music.

Organic farmer and agrarian elder Eliot Coleman is coming from Maine.  Eliot is a highly regarded leader and teacher of organic farming. He will discuss why this issue is so important to the future of organic.

Last fall, more than 100 organic farmers and supporters showed up at the NOSB meeting in Stowe, Vermont to protest organic certification of hydroponics (please feel free to use the photos from the event, here.)  That impromptu rally made international news.

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Click here to view a list of farmers and supporters who support the effort to “Keep the Soil in Organic