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Organic At A Crossroads

n the late 1990s, John Finnie was a Kenton-area conventional zero-till farmer concerned this was becoming too expensive a way to farm to be sustainable.

He began to eye an organic system. Today the Finnies’ have 1,000 acres of cropland certified organic and raise certified bison meat.

The challenges faced on their farm are trying to address fertility and weed control, says Finnie.

“It’s the same as a conventional farmer, except that you have a whole lot less technological tools in your tool box. Our tools now consist of a seeder and various different crops, and seeding, cropping and rotation strategies.”

He’d like to rely less on tillage. They grow many different types of crops.

“We’ve been searching for crops that are more competitive and changing seeding dates. Diversity seems to be key, in every way, with this.”

He’s looking for ways to design a sustainable cropping system that is integrated with the livestock component of their farm.

“Ultimately, that’s what I would like to do, is have (the bison) as my live machinery that don’t wear out after 20 years.”

Yet, he’s also feeling the pressure of the organic game. Finnie said he finds the narrower parameters of an organic system don’t provide enough options for dealing with problems that sooner or later must be addressed.

“There needs to be a little bit more leeway for organic producers to address serious problems,” he said, adding that he wonders if the organic sector may yet see a number of producers exit in pursuit of other sustainable farming systems that provide more options.

“I feel that the organic movement is kind of at a crossroads,” he said.

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CLEAR VIEW:John Finnie and son Martin look over the scenic ravine that runs behind the family’s farmstead.

laura rance

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