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SD Organic Farming in the Spotlight Tuesday

July 21, 2008

Madison, SD – Helping producers transition to organic farming, and giving the public a better understanding of the industry, are the goals of the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society. Its "Summer Symposium and Farm Tour" takes place on Tuesday in South Dakota.

The tour includes a visit to Charlie Johnson's farm near Madison. Johnson says he and his family have used organic methods to raise crops and livestock for years.

"It's a dynamic industry. There's just a huge demand for all kinds of foodstuffs and commodities in the organic realm. It's the type of industry being driven by consumer demand and being placed into action by active growers and farmers. It's an exciting time that exemplifies what family farming is all about - making sure that we provide labor, management and organization, right there on the farm."

Johnson and his brother farm 2,400 acres. He says what they've learned over the years is that, instead of chemicals, good land rotation practices can effectively control weeds and insects.

"You know, if we're really going to be a renewable source out here, and not just say that we are, we need to farm in a way that doesn't have these huge inputs. I look at the conventional farmers, and they all do a great job, but I sometimes wonder when they use the term 'renewable' in raising these commodities, if it is a misnomer. Because if they have those inputs available, like fertilizers and herbicides, how can they say they're raising these commodities on a renewable basis?"

For more than a decade, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has reported organic farming as one of the fastest-growing segments of the industry and predicts it will continue to expand as it attracts more new farmers. Johnson hopes anyone attending the symposium and touring the farm will come away with a sense that organic farming can be successful, if it's done right.

More information on the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society is available online at

David Law/Steve Powers, Public News Service - SD