Editor’s Note: We’ve gone on a search-and-rescue mission to find amazing stories and essays published in earlier print editions of Rootstock. Today’s throwback, “We The Faremers” was written for the 2005 edition of Rootstock.

Preamble

Whereas how we eat determines how the Earth is used, and

Whereas the act of growing food should not contaminate water, deplete soil, kill wildlife, destroy the ozone layer, contribute to antibiotic resistance, leave poisonous residues on the food so grown, compromise human health nor risk the genetic disruption of the entire natural world,

We, the Farmers of Organic Valley, in order to form a more perfect union between our agricultural practices and the natural world, sustain life for countless future generations, establish economic justice for rural communities, insure the tranquility of our domesticated animals, and promote general welfare, hereby declare our intention to work as organic producers in building a partnership society with those who buy and consume our food.

We, the farmers…

1. Respect the laws of nature.

As organic farmers, nature is our teacher. We need to respect the balance of life in nature and to understand that when we disrupt that
balance at any level we face negative consequences. Knowing the benefits of farming with nature, we pledge to contribute to the health of the
environment.

2. Know we can feed the world with organic and sustainable agriculture.

Organic farms today produce far higher yields than the farms of our grandparents and great-grandparents, for whom pesticides were not yet
available. Research studies now verify what we know by experience to be true: organic farms can enjoy yields equivalent to those of conventional farms while consuming far less energy and while leaving the soils richer for future generations.

3. Build strong rural farm communities that help sustain healthy urban communities.

Rural culture is the heart of America, but agricultural policy of the last 50 years has devastated people living on the land – driving rural
people to the city. Overcrowded cities cause a host of quality of life issues. Over time, healthy farming communities help produce manageable
cities as well. One dollar of farm income turns seven times in the local community. We pledge to work with our rural communities by
encouraging the development of organic agriculture – offering employment opportunities and paying fair wages.

4. Must have farmer determined stable pay pricing.

Imagine if every time you received your payroll check, the rate of pay was different –frequently below your expectations and inadequate to
cover your costs. This is a reality for many farmers, especially those in dairy. Current pricing models are abusive. Farmers deserve an honest
wage for their work based on fair market value. Farmers, like all hard working professionals, must have stable and self-determined pricing.

5. Honor animals through humane practices.

Both animals and humans deserve living conditions that enhance their well being. Access to sunshine and fresh air is a basic right. All
animals we raise will have access to pasture, weather permitting. Our animals are raised without use of synthetic hormones, antibiotics, and
GMO technology. They exclusively eat certified organic feed. We recognize and honor the role that animals play in sustainable farming culture, helping ensure the health of the land and our personal health.

6. Require protection from other chemical and genetic contamination of our crops.

Like smoke, wind-borne pesticides do not respect boundaries and property lines. Nor do pollen grains from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Organic farms, directly threatened by the drift of chemicals and bio-engineered substances onto our certified fields, crops and livestock, must be protected and adequately reimbursed when affected. The burden of containment must be on the farmers and corporations
promoting risky technologies. The agricultural use of materials and practices with long-term but little understood consequences to human and environmental health must be prohibited.

7. Claim the right to say what is and is not in our product.

Accurate labeling gives consumers the information they need to know which products are produced without pesticides, synthetic hormones, antibiotics, and GMO technology. Allowing consumers to make informed decisions is our right and responsibility.

8. Preserve the right to save our seeds.

All seeds and genetic plant stock must be held in the public domain, and the seeds need to be free of contamination from neighboring crops. No small group of companies should be allowed to own the seed stock, patent it, or to set the terms for its use.

9. Deserve to receive our fair share of the research dollar.

Agricultural and marketing research as well as extension services should be properly funded to serve organic producers no less than they serve our neighbors practicing conventional agriculture.

10. Expect tax laws to reward excellent care of our water, air, soil, and wildlife habitat, hence protecting bio-diversity.

Traditionally, the farm was always a place where the domesticated animals shared space with wildlife. Buffer strips along water ways, ponds
for wildlife and simply areas left wild or planted for wild life encourage beneficial predators and enhance the land. In many states, farmers who choose to do this must pay taxes on the land as if it were in full production. We advocate modest green tax rebates to encourage and reward farmers for environmental stewardship.

11. Are advocates for organic education.

We call on every public school to maintain an organic garden. Citizens who have grown up with their hands in the dirt can vote in the marketplace and at the polls from an informed perspective. At the same time, we declare our intent to serve as organic teachers in the world at large. Enfranchising the public with honest information about how food is grown and handled ensures the stewardship and well-being of their farm partners on the land. Merging good land stewardship with the citizen-consumer dollar is a powerful win/win solution for all.

12. Pledge our support of farmers everywhere.

All farmers are tethered to a piece of local soil but must operate within the global economy. We reserve the right to export, but we also support farmers everywhere in their right to grow the products they need to ensure self-sufficiency and attain true food security. The scarcity of petroleum resources should minimize massive food exporting and encourage the exchange of specialty products that reinforce our sense of global community.

We, the organic farmers, pledge our continued efforts to build and to sustain a healthier planet.