As part of our “How do you talk about that?,” series, Shannon Seifert shares how she tells the story behind their non-organic and non-GMO farm.
Not organic and no-GMO’s. Confused? Many are. Orange Patch Dairy doesn’t grow GMO crops, but we’re not an organic farm either. With GMO’s in the news, this only increases the importance of communicating about our farming practices. Here are some points we use when talking about GMO’s:
Stress the importance of using crop rotation to control pests and weeds. We’re conventional farmers, but thanks to a crop rotation which includes forage crops like alfalfa, we haven’t needed to use GMO technologies in our corn varieties. We basically only grow corn and alfalfa to feed our cows. Alfalfa works as a great crop to control weeds and break up our corn crop rotations.
Be transparent: when needed, we do use herbicides and insecticides. We use chemicals as needed, based on the recommendations of our agronomist, but since our crops are fed as forage, we want to minimize the amount of chemicals we use. We capitalize on the natural defenses of our crops. However, this can also be said for GMO crops as well, since they allow a reduction in many chemical applications.
GMO’s are an option that we might use if needed. We could benefit from GMO’s or might use them in the future if we face an issue where our agronomist would recommend them, but for right now, our crop rotation and farming choices don’t require GMO’s. In the past pests like corn borer, have damaged our crops and lowered our yields, but we’ve been able to use other agronomic tools and rotation to minimize future damage.
Just like consumers, we demand choices. When we choose our seeds for the growing season, we have a wide variety of traits to choose from: height, grain yield, forage yield, digestibility, drought resistant, standablity, tolerance to insects, resistance to herbicides, etc. As dairy farmers, we put a strong focus on varieties that will make the best, most digestible feed for our cows first, yield comes second. If we can grow high quality feed for our cows, we know we will get high quality milk. A grain farmer will choose varieties that may have a higher grain yield instead; different farmers with different goals.
There’s no single “right” way to farm. Often we forget that there is no single “right” way to farm. Each farm has its own environment and a farmer manages and makes choices which are the best for that environment. We make choices on how to best improve our soils, use our natural fertilizers (cow manure), and produce the most tons of forage per acre, while making sure that each pound of feed we grow helps us grow healthy cows. We make choices that are the best for our environment and our cows.
Are you a non-GMO and non-organic farmer? How do you talk about your farm?
Shannon Seifert is a dairy farmer from Southern Minnesota. After working a full time job as a dairy nutritionist for 4 years she returned to the farm in 2009, working side by side with her husband every day. Together they milk around 200 cows. They love what they do and wouldn’t trade it for the world. You can catch up with Shannon on the Orange Patch Dairy Facebook page or on their blog OrangePatchDairy.blogspot.com.