Legend Organic Farm and NOSB Testimony

We were happy to certify Legend Organic Farm as part of the Real Organic Project this summer. The iconic organic cereal company, Nature’s Path, created Legend Organic Farm to explore and demonstrate the best of organic grain farming. It is a “Think And DO Tank”. Located in Saskatchewan, Canada, Legend Organic Farm is 5000 acres. At a time when the American organic market is being flooded with fraudulently certified grain imports, it is so important to celebrate the Real thing. This video is so important and inspiring. Stuart McMillan and Dag Falck give a tremendous explanation of real organic in this interesting video. Stuart is the farm manager at Legend, and Dag is the longtime organic program manager (and a former OTA board member) at Nature’s Path. Legend Farm realizes that they are part of a movement, and not just part of a marketing brand.

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This is a great video.

Nature’s Path is a longtime organic leader, producing many cereals and organic foods. They care about real organic, and they care about integrity. Nature’s Path is one of the few all-organic companies left. Since every product is organic, they don’t have to protect a “non-organic” side of their business like so many of the huge corporations.

Nature’s Path began buying farmland in 2008 in order to better support the farmers who supply them. They wanted to be more in touch with the issues organic farmers are facing. Legend Organic Farm is part of that mission.

Legend Farm grows primarily organic oats, wheat, barley, hemp, flax, peas. They are continuously diversifying their rotations, minimizing tillage, and increasing the biodiversity within their plantings to help create food for pollinators at any point in the growing season.

Dag Falck of Nature's Path at Legend Organic Farm in Saskatchewan

Dag Falck of Nature’s Path at Legend Organic Farm.

Dag speaks about the immense body of knowledge required to farm well organically and how it is difficult for new people coming into organics to understand the holistic system that must be nurtured, especially when it comes to mimicking the ways that nature creates fertility.

Stuart asks how do we champion those that are doing more for the soil, more for the environment, and not just meeting the baseline of the organic expectations. He says that science has shown, time and time again, that organic is better for biodiversity and biodiversity is better for organic.

Nature’s Path supported the ROP Symposium at Dartmouth last Spring, helping to bring together many in our community for a deeper look at what organic means. In the California campaign for mandatory labeling of GMO products, they donated over $600,000 to fight Monsanto. With the support of champions like Nature’s Path and others who cared like Dr. Bronner’s, we finally passed the first GMO mandatory labeling law in Vermont, the Brave Little State.

Vermonte's celebrate the passage of the GMO Labeling law on the state house steps.

Vermonters celebrate the passage of the GMO Labeling Law on the state house steps.

This historic law was quickly reversed when the Organic Trade Association gave significant support that enabled the passage of the Dark Act (the Federal law that prohibited state labeling of GMOs). Nature’s Path resigned from OTA in protest of that action, and of OTA’s support of “allowing hydroponics to fall under the organic certification label.” Arran Stephens wrote that the resignation was “an act of protest to raise awareness of our concern that the important role organic plays to support the health of consumers and our planet is being compromised.”

We are in difficult times.

Who are “we”? If a huge corporation that is heavily invested in conventional agriculture buys a small organic company, is the huge corporation now “one of us”? Does the organic movement even matter in a war of brands? Are real organic farmers still important to the “organic industry”? Do the people who want to buy real organic food still matter to the “organic trade”?

A few years back, it was said that the hydroponic issue was a debate between “the movement and the trade.”

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Ratana and Arran Stevens

Ratana and Arran Stephens, founders of Nature’s Path. Photo Courtesy of Nature’s Path.

Is there any trade without the movement?

Arran Stephens co-founded Natur’s Path with his wife, Ratana. As a child, his parents taught him about organic farming. In a letter to me earlier this year, Arran shared something his father wrote in 1951 about organic and hydroponics. This was written the year before I was born, and long before there was an “organic trade”!

“Modern super-cultivation causes casualties in astronomical figures to the unseen inhabitants of the soil. I am referring to the numerous beneficial types of soil bacteria and fungus that are absolutely necessary for healthy plant growth, and for the health of the people or animals that eat it. It is true that, as a novelty or emergency measure, plants can be grown in pure sterile sand or water to which has been added a chemical solution. Let the other fellow eat the produce grown in this matter – not my family, or the customers that buy my produce – but, back to sawdust.” (from Sawdust Is My Slave, 1951 by Rupert Stephens).

So Arran was part of the movement before he became a part of the trade. We always hoped that we would all, movement and trade, be in this together.

Crop fields at Legend Organic

Crop fields at Legend Organic. Photos courtesy of Louise McMillan.

At the recent NOSB meeting in Pittsburgh, I talked about the need for us all to speak out. The following is excerpted from the testimony I gave to the board members at that meeting last October:

“You have a microphone. Please use it. You are meant to represent us, the organic community. Not the USDA.

“Six years ago the USDA lectured the NOSB. None of you were on the board at that time. But they put the previous fifteen members in a room and told them that they ‘must walk the line.’

“And I’m asking you. Please, don’t walk the line.

“In USDA organic certification, the largest hydroponic producers insist that they are not hydroponic. The largest CAFO producers insist that they are not confinement operations.

“We know that this is not true. The question is what do we do about it?

“Do we quietly surrender the soul of organic?”

stuart macmillan inspects grain at legend organic farm

Stuart McMillan inspects grain at Legend Organic Farm.

Yes, this is complicated. It is complicated because it doesn’t make any sense to certify hydroponics as organic. It doesn’t make any sense to certify confinement livestock operations as organic. So the whole thing is getting a bit surreal.

These basic flaws have crept into the foundations of the National Organic Program. They are the reason that the Real Organic Project was formed. Please join us. Please support us. Let’s take back organic. Please make a contribution if you can afford it.

We ARE succeeding, with your help.


Sign The Petition To End Hydroponic Growing Under USDA Organic

crimson clover in bloom at Legend Organic Farm

Crimson clover in bloom at the biodiverse Legend Organic Farm.