Steve Ela has one goal:

Produce great tasting organic fruit without society subsidizing the costs of his farming operation.

Steve Ela, of Ela Family Farms, is a respected member of the National Organic Standards Board. He is also a board member of the Real Organic Project. His Colorado orchard is a Real Organic Project Pilot Farm and has qualified for our add-on label.

In this week’s Know Your Farmer video of Ela Family Farms, Steve explains how managing his organic perennial orchard ecosystem begins with soil health.

By composting and cover cropping, he can prevent the agricultural mismanagement that results in nitrate and phosphate leaching, soil erosion, and carbon emissions.

In this Know Your Farmer video, Steve argues that organic yields often equal or surpass conventional in spite of the lack of organic research funding. For example, his yields often surpass those of conventional due to recent research into biological control and pheromone disruption. Unfortunately, funding for organic research pales in comparison to conventional.

While yield is important to a farmer’s bottom line, Steve points out that fruit quality, flavor, and nutrition should be equally important. For example, fertilizers are often over applied by conventional farmers to increase yield, but soils remain deficient in minerals, micronutrients, and diverse microbial life.

Studies show that over-fertilization also results in greater insect and disease pressure. The insects can’t resist the high-nitrogen tissue! This creates a greater dependence on pesticides and puts farmers into a chemical treadmill.

Organic farmers are unique in placing value on the flavor and nutritional benefits of their crops. They acknowledge the differences between a crop grown in living soils high in organic matter and those grown in soils treated with fertilizers, fungicides, antibiotics, and insecticides.

The health of the land and those purchasing their products receives a greater value than yield alone. This is because organic has always been a values-based industry. The Real Organic Project aims to keep it that way! Please help us spread the word if you share these values too.

Yours in the dirt,