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attrayant

The End Of Organic Farming Might Be Sooner Than We Thought

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Yes that's a gloomy headline, but the article is an interesting perspective from some farmers who are trying to make a living doing - what they initially, perhaps naively thought - was the right thing.

The End Of Organic Farming Might Be Sooner Than We Thought

Some people take to farming as a labor of love without realizing how difficult it can be to sustain such an enterprise. My own attempt at gardening (back in the states) failed to produce little more than a few tomato plants and the occasional herb, and even that came at no small investment of time and effort. I heard that zucchini was easy to grow so I tried that. Success! But a lot of it went to waste because it was hard to find people who actually like the stuff. After that I stuck to the easy herbs and chili peppers and other things that I could grow in containers on the front porch. I don't envy farmers who are actually trying to make a living doing this. But I digress.

It might seem like a good time to be part of the small farm business: More people than ever want to eat locally produced food, even casual restaurants name-check farms on their menus, and urban farmers' markets teem with the young and beautiful. But if you are David Maren, you know the truth: Sometimes, sustainable small farms are, well, unsustainable.

It goes on to highlight the unpredictable output of small-scale farming operations, and how even the smallest unexpected problem can result in huge losses. Maren says:

I realized that marketing was only one problem. Really, the root problem for so many small-scale farmers was essentially a lack of business know-how and management.

I'm intrigued by that. It certainly sheds some light on the plight of Thai farmers - many of whom know what they know only because their fathers knew it, and most lack the benefit of a modern agriculturally-focused education.

As is probably no secret to most of us in this forum, economies of scale can make or break a successful farming venture. As the article points out, it's cheaper and more efficient for one farmer to grow 500 tomato plants than it is for ten farmers to grow 50. It isn't long before the harsh reality of economics sets in for the first-time farmer:

Too often, young or first-time farmers must still decide between pursuing a career that involves more management than mulching or abandoning the field altogether. After three years of working as an apprentice and then farm manager, Audrey Berman, a young farmer in the Hudson Valley, finds herself debating whether she can continue farming. I feel like we all get into farming because we want to feed the people, and then we realize our food has to go to the highest bidder."

It gets worse:

There are basically no small-scale farmers who have been in the business more than six years or are over 40, says Linehan. Small-scale farming isn't new; people were doing it in the '90s, and those people quit. Because your body can't take that kind of abuse into your 40s, you cant make enough money to retire, you can't make that much money in general.

So it truly is a labor of love. The family farmers I know back home are all on the large scale, with hundreds of acres and all the necessary supporting equipment and technology. They tell me there's just no other way if you want to have a sustainable business while satisfying the market demand for high output and low cost.

So I'd be interested in hearing from anyone here who has gotten into farming in Thailand - that is beyond a small patch of tomato plants in the back yard - and whether or not you agree or disagree with the views and experiences of the farmers in the article.

[edited for punctuation]

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And of course I just now see there's a subforum for organic farming. If a moderator could move this, that'd be greaaaaaaat.

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Well organics have to compete with non organics and economically that is a very difficult row to hoe.

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Organic is priced out of the market for most , also is it really organic how lax is the certification of organic produce.here in Thailand ?

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Is there even a strict definition of "organic" in Thailand? It's pretty much a sham in the USA (and by that I mean, it means very different things depending on whom you ask). In the words of Dan Glickman (USDA Secretary during the years when the 'Organic" label was created):

Let me be clear about one thing. The organic label is a marketing tool. It is not a statement about food safety. Nor is ‘organic’ a value judgment about nutrition or quality.


From the same link:

The Organic Seal does not and cannot signify any health or safety criteria whatsoever. It merely certifies that products were produced using less modern inputs.

Less modern inputs. If that's the measuring stick, then almost everything grown here should qualify as organic.

So what's the official meaning of "organic" in Thailand? A google search turned up this link, but when I click on the standards and certifications links on the right side, they both go to empty pages: Organic Certification Thailand FAQ

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Nobody around me is organic,no one could afford a failure.

There bums are hanging out of there jeans already.

We are not in a vegetable growing area,more rice,sugar,cassava,maize,a few bananna's and chilli's

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I personally know of 22 families who have for over a decade been growing organic vegetables in a cooperative on 10 Rai of land in Thailand. Non are wealthy, non have an education in agriculture but between them they supply almost all their own family vegetable needs, sell excess product in the local community and certainly reap other benefits in the form of community cohesion.

Their lack of business know-how doesn't stop them turning a small profit and the absence of 'marketing', hasn't prevented people in the nearby town finding out about their produce and going out of their way to visit and buy directly from the cooperative.

On an even smaller scale, I have a friend who grows all her own organic food and once again covers the costs by selling to people, many of whom drive 8kms from the local town to buy directly from her.

And on a rather sinister note. I know of several farming families in Thailand who grow two crops - Industrially farmed produced for market and organic produce for their own consumption.

What surprises me is that Organic is in the west associated with the metropolitan middle class, while in Thailand people across the social spectrum are aware of organic food and discuss the issues around organic produce.

"The End of Organic Farming" - I don't think so.

That is not to say there are no people and organisations who are doing their best to bring about its demise - The film 'The Real Dirt on Farm John', is worth watching to get an idea of just how far people and organisations will go to shut down organic farming, and how hard other people will work to keep it going.

A misunderstanding of the 'economic' argument against 'organic farming' is the absence of considering that organic farming is arguably more a social movement than economic enterprise. By discussing organic in restricted economic terms part the organic movement plays in communities and society is missed.

But we've been there before with restricted terms of reference to frame an argument.whistling.gif

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I personally know of 22 families who have for over a decade been growing organic vegetables in a cooperative on 10 Rai of land in Thailand. Non are wealthy, non have an education in agriculture but between them they supply almost all their own family vegetable needs, sell excess product in the local community and certainly reap other benefits in the form of community cohesion.

Their lack of business know-how doesn't stop them turning a small profit and the absence of 'marketing', hasn't prevented people in the nearby town finding out about their produce and going out of their way to visit and buy directly from the cooperative.

On an even smaller scale, I have a friend who grows all her own organic food and once again covers the costs by selling to people, many of whom drive 8kms from the local town to buy directly from her.

And on a rather sinister note. I know of several farming families in Thailand who grow two crops - Industrially farmed produced for market and organic produce for their own consumption.

What surprises me is that Organic is in the west associated with the metropolitan middle class, while in Thailand people across the social spectrum are aware of organic food and discuss the issues around organic produce.

"The End of Organic Farming" - I don't think so.

That is not to say there are no people and organisations who are doing their best to bring about its demise - The film 'The Real Dirt on Farm John', is worth watching to get an idea of just how far people and organisations will go to shut down organic farming, and how hard other people will work to keep it going.

A misunderstanding of the 'economic' argument against 'organic farming' is the absence of considering that organic farming is arguably more a social movement than economic enterprise. By discussing organic in restricted economic terms part the organic movement plays in communities and society is missed.

But we've been there before with restricted terms of reference to frame an argument.whistling.gif

Can you elaborate more on the business model.22 families,say 88 people living of 10 rai.

We could all learn a lot from this.

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Yes it would be enlightening to find out what this farm is doing right that so many other farms are doing wrong.

Care to name this co-op? I'm sure they'd appreciate the exposure.

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Can you elaborate more on the business model.22 families,say 88 people living of 10 rai.

We could all learn a lot from this.

Since I have not claimed 22 families, say 88 people, are living off 10 Rai, I can't answer your question.

The 'business model' is, as I stated, a cooperative.

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Yes it would be enlightening to find out what this farm is doing right that so many other farms are doing wrong.

Care to name this co-op? I'm sure they'd appreciate the exposure.

What and break the golden rule of introducing information into a TVF discussion that identifies friends or family.

Not a chance attrayant.

But the world of cooperatives is not difficult to find, google "successful organic cooperative" you'll find a few to read up on.

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Can you elaborate more on the business model.22 families,say 88 people living of 10 rai.

We could all learn a lot from this.

Since I have not claimed 22 families, say 88 people, are living off 10 Rai, I can't answer your question.

The 'business model' is, as I stated, a cooperative.

Well do the best you can,this is a forum where people share what they know,right or wrong to help other people make decisions.

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Well do the best you can,this is a forum where people share what they know,right or wrong to help other people make decisions.

I have given you the information I am willing to share and an explanation as to why that is so.

I've also answered the OP's request for different perspectives of the issue.

I trust you'll accept my right to withhold information that can be used to identify others.

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It is not all doom and gloom, in my field of cattle , I have found an organic milk company in Bangkok ,Butterfly milk .

With the bad management ,and not so good animal welfare ,and a wide spread use of antibiotics ,a lot more than in our country's ,and the big feed companies using urea in all they dairy cattle feeds , rice straw being the main sauce of roughage for most dairy cows, if it is organic in our sense of the word they are doing well, who oversees it all ,and what there /Thai standard is re Thai organic milk is,who knows .

On the phone to a Thai friend of mine he said a company in Bangkok ,I would say it would be Butterfly milk ,he did not know, said the company is paying 25 Bart/kg for organic milk ,now the price for ordinary milk ,depending on grade is 18 Bart/kg ,almost worth doing ,if you can .

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Welcome to the organic farming forum Attrayant; I almost disregarded the post because of the ridiculous notion of the subject and superficial article it is based on. But I will give my two satang in defense of the forum and of organic farming.

Organic farmers and gardeners have been up against negative opinion throughout the 46 years that I have been an enthusiast, as much as they have been up against insect pests and fungi. I guess the good thing about a somewhat negative post from a newcomer, and a discussion like this is that it makes organic farmers/gardeners here examine their own convictions and methods of growing and management. And to examine what organic farming means to each individual and how they apply the principles, and whether they are a smart business person with realistic expectations for the market they are participating in, or not. There are as many opinions on what organic means, as there are farmers. And what does success or failure mean, and what factors, economic and materials resources, crop choices and experience of the farmer, sales and marketing avenues available, etc. go into the farming and business development.

I don't have time to dig up success stories in organic farming, but there are many out there and they probably reflect the same success or failure statistics as with all businesses. A farm failure to profit can be largely due to inadequate farm and business management, as to the organic growing side of it. Economic profitability is dependent on so many factors, not just what you are growing and how you are growing it. Large scale corporate farming dominates the economics, as does large corporate business in any sector. Many small family farms cannot make it, organic or not. Commercial farmers everywhere are at the mercy of the market place and all that goes along with it. And for an expat in Thailand, that effort is particularly difficult with the language barrier, and inadequate information and materials resources, and being sometimes alone in your community and even family, with ideals and objectives. In organic farming and gardening there are many things to learn in order to be successful, it really takes a lifetime, or multiple lifetimes are best with a family or farm business lineage. Many organic growers jump into it without a family or business background and experience, just an ideal, that may or not be realistic in the farming and marketing environment that they have adopted.

From a Forbes article: According to Bloomberg, 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months. A whopping 80% crash and burn.

The fundamental of success for many organic growers, is that they are growing food for their family and maybe community farmer's market and/or CSA (community supported agriculture like www.route1farms.com). And they are growing in a way that is consistent with their values for personal and family health and environmental sustainability, with least negative impact for the land, the air and water quality for the community and for the world.

I first leaned about organic growing methods while volunteering for two years in an agricultural project in south India in the early 70s. I operated a tractor service and operator training program for local village men, in a geographical area serving many different kinds of farms with many types of crops. My favorite farm was managed by an old farmer, who had come from a family tradition of organic farming that never knew it was "alternative", where his ancestors had always grown this way, never having adopted the post world war two chemical farming methods. I leaned about compost making, minimal or no tillage, crop rotations, green manuring with legumes, incorporating crop residues to build soil organic matter content, integrated pest management, companion planting for biological pest control, moon cycle observances for planting and harvesting, and other organic growing principles and practices. One of the perks of the job was getting gratuity gifts of food items from the farms I serviced, sacks of peanuts, cashews, millet, rice, baskets of fruit and vegetables. The food from this organic, permaculture farm tasted better by far, and I could see from comparing with the other farms I serviced, that it was better integrated, with land, animal and plant husbandry that went far beyond the other farms I serviced. It was very convincing of the superior management and quality of the products. I became a believer.

In my opinion, growing for yourself, your family, your community is the basis to compare success of organic farming and what it means to you. If you are growing to compete in the commercial market place, then you will need another whole set of business and farm management skills and resources that you should really consider, do you have it or not. Do you have a hobby farm, and can you afford some losses in the leaning process, or do you need to be commercially viable out of the gate or lose everything. My Thai wife and I took over a lease and caretaker assignment of a ten rai farm in Chiang Mai province with mature mango and lamyai orchards. I did everything I knew to continue the organic methods that had been used on this farm. But when the mango fruit flies hit, I didn't have any idea what I was up against. That was because I was not experienced with this crop and it's issues, and I was not experienced with growing in Thailand, and especially not experienced with fruit flies, and I was limited in Thai language and the information I was getting from local growers and university resources. We got wiped out, but it wasn't because of organic methods, it was lack of experience. I now know of an organic fruit fly bait, and I know not to try and control the weaver ants that were annoying me, but that are a biological control. I had another failure while learning how to apply the bait effectively, but now I have better fruit fly defense, although it took some losses to figure it out.

"Organic" means different thing to different people. To some it just means not using what they perceive as "chemicals" or "pesticides" which are dirty words in that school of thought. I see that many people don't go much beyond this very limited aspect of organic growing, or know about the many other aspects of farm management that make or break a successful organic program. The term "Organic", from when I first got involved, had to do with the organic matter content of the soil, which in some early certification programs was defined as 5% or more OM. Thus ensuring adequate soil biology to facilitate natural nutrient release without heavy chemical replacement. That aspect of certification has been long abandoned and many organic growers don't even know the full implications of that standard. If you are in the commercial marketplace and you are dependent on organic farm certification, then you will have to adhere to the existing standards, and there is information available from the certifying agencies.

To some, organic means comprehensive, integrated farm management with environmental and community consciousness, along the lines of permaculture. If you are growing for yourself, family and a CSA, you may not need certification, then you may be more free to develop your farm and marketing along your own lines and with the vast information resources available.

Here are some:

ORGANIC LAND CARE AND FOOD PRODUCTION.pdf

UN Tropical Organics.pdf

Organic Land Care Standards.pdf

BiointensiveAgricultureAGreenerRevolution_English.pdf

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