Organic Farming Catching on in Virginia -- Birds Celebrate

While we've done many, many stories on the rise of organic agriculture in the US and around the world, we have yet to come across a more dramatic "conversion" experience than that of Virginia farmer Bill Jardine:

...Jardine was spraying his fields for an infestation of Colorado potato beetles in 1986 when something dropped out of the sky.

Even now, he doesn't like to talk about it. The sprayer nozzle had clogged. He climbed down from his tractor and tried to clear it. A stream of pesticide shot into the air, and a passing bird fell dead at his feet.

"I started figuring what I could do differently," said Jardine, who now operates a 90-acre organic farm, health food store and co-op service.

Jardine's experience is unique (we hope), but his adoption of organic farming practices isn't: organic demand in Virginia is growing by 30% a year, and both farmers and the state's Department of Agriculture are working hard to give consumers the chemical-free produce and meats they desire. In the process, they're learning the ins and outs of everything from controlling pests to meeting certification standards. While these farmers can demand higher prices for their crops and livestock, for Jardine, organic farming is a moral issue: "I've been the whole gamut - from fear of chemicals to knowing I was providing better food. I believe what we're doing is right." ::Norfolk Virginian-Pilot via WTOP radio

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