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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick: Organic farming (for the week of Sept. 30, 2001)

September 18, 2001

Dear Twig: What’s organic farming? Organic farming, or “biological farming,” doesn’t use synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Instead, the soil is enriched with manure, compost and cover crops. And pests, weeds and diseases are fought or prevented with a big bag of mostly non-chemical tools: resistant varieties, rotation, cultivation, mulch and more. (There are a few organic pesticides.) Organic matter in the soil -- from manure, compost, etc. -- is the key. It’s full of nutrients that make crops grow. It helps the soil hold nutrients and moisture. And it supports all sorts of organisms -- billions of them, from microbes to earthworms -- whose actions, ideally, keep crops healthy. Farmers who grow organically say they do it to help the environment (to reduce chemical exposure and increase biodiversity), to cut their input costs (manure, for example, is cheap or free) and to boost, they hope, their profitability (organic crops sell for more than their conventional counterparts). But organic farming takes a lot of work. Yields may vary or be lower, because some crops are hard to grow without chemicals. And the cost to consumers is higher. So it’s not for everyone. Bottom line, what it gives people -- both farmers and consumers -- is a choice. Twig Hey Editor! Steve Sears, certification administrator, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, reviewed this column. "Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick," a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, is a weekly science column for kids. "Twig" is a bow tie-wearing cartoon walkingstick, a type of insect. He's the voice of the column and appears at the left in the hard-copy version. "Bob the Bug," Twig's pal, is a bald-headed bug of an unidentified type who doesn't say much and appears in the bottom-right corner. For more information or to receive "Twig" columns by mail or e-mail, contact Kurt Knebusch, 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691, (330) 263-3776,

Kurt Knebusch
Steve Sears