Thursday, July 06, 2017

Amish Organic Farmers and Steel-Wheeled Tractors

Washington Post has a good article on a group of Amish dairies in Iowa who are producing organic milk, but who are being undercut by what they view as illegitimate "organic milk" from large dairies.  This is a sequel to an earlier article where the Post challenged some large dairies, trying to prove by analysis of the milk and data on the operations that the cows could not be grazing as much as is required by USDA regs in order to be labeled "organic".

That's a valid challenge.  And the Amish seem eminently qualified to produce organic milk, given their religion-based resistance to technology.  It fits their "small" farms (under 100 cows, which still seems large to me).

I've followed the Amish story for a long while, ever since I served on a task force in the 1970's with the county executive director of the Lancaster County ASCS Office, who would describe the ins and outs of their relations with government programs.  Donald Kraybill has been a major source of my knowledge of the Amish, and the lines they draw of acceptable and unacceptable technology.  I still remember pictures of a horse-drawn baler.

This article was accompanied by a picture of a steel-wheeled tractor being used on an Amish farm, which would seem to show this group of Amish pushing out the boundaries of acceptable technology.  What's ironic to me is that horses fit nicely into organic agriculture--they can eat the oats which form part of an acceptable crop rotation.  The switch from horses to tractors in the Midwest from 1930 to 1955 also meant a loss of the market for oats.  So while the Amish have a valid complaint against large dairies on the one hand, on the other they're slowly acceding to the forces which undermined our organic agriculture of the 1930's.

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