Organic farming has become a much more popular method of farming in recent years but the OSU Organic Growers Club has been around since 2000 when organic farming was just beginning. Since then the club has grown and it was an honor to volunteer for a group that promotes sustainable farming methods. The production of food for public consumption is an integral part of every community. By teaching students, volunteers, and the general public about ecosystem-friendly farming the Organic Growers Club is making hugely positive impact on their community. Overall, the entire volunteer experience was extremely rewarding and educational because there were many aspects of organic farming to be learned during the experience.
First was what organic farming actually means and the rules that are applied to farming methods for farms to retain the ‘organic’ status. To obtain and keep ‘organic’ status a farm needs a plan that keeps the fields sustainable. This includes long-term soil management plans, buffering between conventional farms, and abstaining from using any chemicals that would alter the food product. Adhering to such strict rules can be difficult for farms because there is more work involved to grow and produce food. To follow these rules the Organic Growers Club uses horse manure as fertilizer, hay mulching methods to maintain soil health, and they also rotate which crops are planted in which area of the fields. By using a natural and easily obtained fertilizer they can abstain from using conventional chemically derived fertilizers that have seriously damaged the ecosystem. The only hurdle when farming with labor-intensive methods is the extra time and hands needed to prepare fields. Fortunately, the Organic Growers Club utilizes numerous volunteers to help ease the workload and it was an honor to help distribute hay on the fields and shovel horse manure to prepare for winter.
Distributing hay over the fields helps with organic farming in many ways. For the volunteer experience the hay was used to prepare the fields for winter. This works by sitting on top of the soil and composting throughout the winter putting nutrients back into the soil and keeping the upper layer of the soil soft and ready for planting. The hay helps to thin out weeds without the need for weed killers which is immensely helpful for organic farming. Also, the hay aides with rotating crops because it creates an environment that continually composts the dead vegetation and more plants can be planted on top of the old crop easily.
The other main obstacle of organic farming is finding a fertilizer that does not contain chemicals that harm the plants and the environment. With so many commercial products on the market and current agriculture commonly utilizing these methods it may appear that there are limited options for organic farmers. Thankfully, that assumption is incorrect and there are actually many options and the Organic Growers Club has used horse manure for their fields with much success. During the volunteering opportunity there was enough time to shovel some horse manure to prepare it for field spreading but the weather was uncooperative and rainy and did not allow for anything more than shoveling.
It was extremely rewarding to help a local organic farm. The manual labor of laying down hay on the fields and shoveling horse manure gave great insight into the daily life of a farmer. Learning about the strict laws that regulate organic farming and the non-commercial farming methods employed to stay within said regulations was fascinating. After volunteering at the farm grocery shopping has changed and there is much more respect for the work put in to organic produce and products. Organic farming is great for the environment and even though there is more work required to succeed the benefits outweigh any drawbacks from this work.