And all the bells were ringing.

The Organic Movement: Try. Fail. Fail again. Fail better. A call to action from an organic moderate.




Looking back on the USDA meeting in Jacksonville, I am left with anger, grief, and a sense of urgency that we keep moving forward. The meeting of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) was a historical turning point for the National Organic Program (NOP). It was a watershed moment.

After massive scandal and fraud in recent years, this was our last chance to regain the lost integrity of the organic seal. The regulatory issue up for a vote was whether soil is the necessary foundation for organic farming. If soil isn’t required, hydroponics will lead the way to a New USDA Organic. But the bigger issue was the integrity of the National Organic Program. Does it stand for real organic, or has it become a marketing tool for industrial agriculture?

This has become an international issue, as a debate takes place between the organic movement and the hydro industry. Organic has always been about the soil. In our world of Walganic, soil is easily forgotten by recent converts. They ask, “Isn’t it just about pesticides?”


All of the organic philosophy is about building the health of the soil. All the benefits of health and climate come from a fertile soil. If you can get the soil right, then you don’t need pesticides. Not all traditional farming is organic. Some of it was very destructive and created most of today’s deserts. There was a time that Afghanistan more closely resembled Austria.

But at the same time that the European Commission is strengthening organic standards to prohibit hydro, the National Organic Program is collapsing like a house of cards.

The hydro forces were arrayed against us with Driscoll’s, Wholesum Harvest, Organic Trade Association, California Certified Organic Farmers, and United Natural Foods Inc working together to get hydro approved. We were wearing t-shirts that said, “Protect Organic.” But they wanted to Protect Money, not Organic. Money is what connects these groups.

The Jacksonville meeting had a feel of the gunfight at the OK Corral. Organic pioneers and advocates came from as far away as Europe, and from as close as downtown Jacksonville. We were united by common beliefs about soil and health. We were there to celebrate and defend real organic, not to attack hydro.

Washington Post: Pioneers Of Organic Farming Are Threatening To Leave The Program They Helped Create

Wholesum is big by my standards, but Driscoll’s dwarfs them as one of the two biggest organic producers in the world. They are also the biggest conventional berry producer in the world. They are BIG. If we took Driscoll’s out of the equation, the whole fight would have disappeared. Driscolls brought Organic Trade Association and CCOF to the hydro side. Without them we would have won this years ago. The “debate” would be over.

There was a Rally to Protect Organic, with 65 farmers and eaters during the lunch break on the first day. We marched behind a brass band and spoke at a plaza to recall what the word organic stands for. There were 14 other rallies across the country leading up to Jacksonville, but there has never been such a gathering as took place that day. Farmers who have taught the rest of us for many years, such as Eliot Coleman and Fred Kirschenmann, inspired us with their call to action. Younger farmers such as Linley Dixon, Dan Bensonoff, and Tom Barrett traveled far to support real organic.

The march was led by Anais Beddard, a 29 year-old farmer who is the second generation to run Lady Moon Farms, and Eliot Coleman, the 78 year old pioneer who helped the USDA write its first report on organic farming 37 years ago (8 years before Anais was born!). Between them marched 92-year-old Emily Dale, who attributes her long life and health to eating organic food.

To hear Eliot Coleman talk about the importance of soil, click here.

Four current NOSB members and six former NOSB members, joined us at the Rally, as well as farmers from all over the country.  Most of that crowd was well qualified to serve on the NOSB as well. They included scientists, policy activists, and eaters. Anglos and people of color. Women and men. Young and old. They were people who cared about food and how it is grown. They were highly informed leaders of the organic movement.