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Organic Farmers


Organic farming is an ancient practice, dating back to early civilizations, and was the only form of agriculture for thousands of years. Its distinction as "organic" was not needed, nor made, until the early 20th century, when another type of agricultural practice emerged that relied on synthetic fertilizers and chemicals to improve and increase crop productions. Sir Albert Howard, a British agriculturist, is considered by many to be the father of organic farming. He studied agricultural practices in India from 1905 to 1934, and later wrote books, such as An Agricultural Testament, about composting and soil fertility, recycling organic waste materials for use in farming, and his adamant opposition to the use of chemical fertilizers in farming.

Chemicals that were developed for use in World War II were adapted after the war for use in crop production in the United States; for instance, nerve gases were used as strong pesticides. To combat mosquitoes and other pests, these chemicals were used widely on crops around the country. It wasn't until 1962, when ecologist Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring came out, that the general public became fully aware of what these chemicals were doing to the environment, to wildlife and ecosystems, and to human beings. From the book, people learned that DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), a colorless, chlorine-containing pesticide, was killing a number of different bird species (thus the book's title), and that pesticides stay in people's systems their entire lives. Carson advocated for more responsible use of the chemicals, and for agricultural and chemical companies to be forthcoming about the use of these chemicals. DDT was banned in 1972, and Silent Spring is credited for inspiring the environmental movement.

Organic farming has evolved since the 1970s to take many forms. In the early days, many organic farmers started their businesses to directly counter large, industrialized farms. The small, independently operated organic farm still exists today, as do large, corporate farms. The term organic has evolved and been popularized, with people now interpreting it to mean anything from "free of chemicals" to "USDA organic certified." With "organic" becoming more closely associated with a corporate logo and large agribusiness, many small- and medium-sized organic farms are instead using the words sustainable and natural to describe their farming practices.