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Why one farmer went organic
And why you should too
janisse ray color
Janisse Ray
More than 500 Georgians will gather in Dalton next month to discuss the hottest topic in agriculture, organics.
Al Clark, for one, plans to be there. Mr. Clark runs a family farm near Portal that produces organic tomatoes. A fifth generation farmer, Mr. Clark always used chemical fertilizers and pesticides on his fields.
Then in 2007 his first field was certified organic.
Organic agriculture is traditional farming that uses manures, cover crops, and other non-chemical methods to increase soil fertility as well as plant and animal health and productivity.
"I converted to organic partly for health reasons," Mr. Clark said. "I have a grandmother, grandfather and two sisters who've had cancer."
The EPA reports that 60 percent of all herbicides and 90 percent of fungicides are carcinogenic. A growing amount of research shows that organic food contains fewer pesticide residues and is nutritionally superior. Organic foods have higher levels of antioxidants, which fight cancer.
Organic agriculture is more environmentally sound, since harmful synthetic compounds from chemical farming contaminate groundwater, soil and air, affecting all forms of life, from insects to humans. In addition, organic agriculture builds topsoil and promotes diversity by avoiding the mono-cropping that is the trademark of chemical farming.
Although organic food is often considered more expensive, many of the true costs of chemical food are hidden; government subsidies to corporate farms, heavy use of fossil fuels and huge long-distance transportation costs. Modern farming consumes 12 percent of the world's petroleum, more than any other industry.
"With organic product sales growing at 20 percent per year and the phenomenal interest in locally grown food, opportunities are increasing for farmers and communities throughout the state," said Alice Rolls, executive director of Georgia Organics, a group dedicated to the promotion of sustainable agriculture.
For the past several years, Georgia Organics has set records for attendance at its annual conferences, testimony to the mounting interest in organics. "This conference will help farmers, community planners and consumers," Rolls said, "gather the information, connections and skills they need to bring economic prosperity to rural communities, and wholesome, healthy food to citizens."
Full details on the event are available at or by calling (678) 702-0400. Early bird registration rates expire Feb. 1.

Ray is enjoying homegrown organic squash and potatoes on these cold winter days.
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