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Want to See a Working, Organic Farm? Now’s Your Chance

In recent years organic food markets have grown 20 to 24 percent annually, with more consumers waking up every day to the health benefits that organic farming can provide for humans and the environment. But what does farming organically entail? If you want to see it firsthand, Allison Organic Research Farm at Western Illinois University is offering twilight tours of its 80-acre organic farm September 7.

The tour begins at 5 p.m. southwest of Warren City, Illinois. Besides getting a spectacular view of the peak bloom of the farm’s nine acres of black oilseed sunflowers, you’ll get to look at grain corn, popcorn and soybean fields farmed the old-fashioned way (no-till) versus conventional till. A wide variety of cover crops such as sunn hemp, cowpeas, berseem clover, buckwheat, mustard, radish, turnips and millet will also be on display.

I’ve had the opportunity to tour organic, regenerative farms, and I’ve found them amazing and inspiring. Will Harris, owner of White Oak Pastures in Bluffton, Georgia, for example, showed me how farms can actually revitalize the Earth by allowing livestock to graze freely, and moving the herd around in specific patterns. Harris is a pioneer of grass fed products and what he calls "a kinder, gentler agriculture," and his farm is a great demonstration of how you can convert conventionally farmed land to a healthy, thriving farm based on regenerative methods.

In addition to cattle, Harris now has free-range goats, ewes, pigs, chickens, geese and ducks on his farm. This mix of species brings a much-needed synergy to the whole system. They form symbiotic relationships where one species helps keep parasites from overwhelming another.

Harris no longer uses any kind of chemical fertilizers or pesticides on his farm. He’s also quit tilling. As a result, the farm and the land as a whole is teeming with life that was not there before. As you can see, I’m more than a little excited that these farms are taking hold, slowly but surely, not just in America, but around the world. I encourage you to visit the Allison farm if you’re close enough to visit, and see what organic farming can do.
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