The Natural Choice
When Nate Jones first tossed in the trowel on conventional farming, he worried that the weeds on his 200-acre Elmore County farm would grow 3-feet tall overnight.
They did not.
Now, the third-generation rancher-farmer worries that his 600 acres will produce so much organic beef and so many organic vegetables that he will not be able to sell them all without a broker.
Organic farming has become a way of life for Nate Jones, right in photo, who receives a lot of sound advice from UI extension educator Mir-M. Seyedbagheri, left in photo. © Pam Benham. All rights reserved.
Jones Idaho organic certification tags read No. 6. He is the sixth Idaho producer to achieve certified organic status since 1990. In the beginning, I was looking for higher returns, he says. But its become a lot more philosophical for me. This is the way Im going to farm until I die, regardless of the prices.
Organic produce is
still profitable, although competition is intensifying and pressuring
prices downward. Nationwide, production research is increasing, but extension
We are so fortunate to have him, says Jones. I have to pinch myself every once in a while. He understands organic principles, and hes a wealth of knowledge.
For Seyedbagheri, working with Idahos organic producers is consistently challenging, satisfying, and interesting. Their cultural practices are very different and its harder to answer their questions, but they are so creative, he says. They have to do the right things at the right time in the right place.
And, like Seyedbagheri, they are committed to build their living soils with life-sustaining microorganisms.
To help them determine
how much compost to apply to their fields and when that compost will release
nitrogen in a form crops can use, Seyedbagheri has studied compost mineralization
since 1996. At Jones farm, he found that 3 tons of compost per acre
is sufficient and that carbon-nitrogen ratios below 20:1 will prevent
unwanted bursts of late-season fertilizer.
Research on Colorado potato beetle control, conducted by extension entomologist Bob Stoltz with Buhl organic grower Mike Heath, also has given Jones clearer insights into his pest-management strategies. Stoltz found that growing winter wheat in a rotation following potatoes provides a formidable physical barrier to recently hatched beetlesespecially when this years potatoes are moved as far as possible from this years wheat. Its hard for them to crawl up the stalks and get out, Stoltz says, and cooler soil temperatures at the grains base interfere with their warming up and flying off.
that organic production will remain a small slice of Idaho agriculture
for the foreseeable future. But even if it nets Gem State growers only
a modest premium, he considers his time well-spentand Idahos
living soils well-served.