By Greg Church, Ph.D., Collin County Extension Agent for Horticulture
As a consumer it is difficult to ignore the barrage of marketing approaches by companies interested in selling you products. Agriculture/horticulture producers use strategies to market their products. The USDA Organic® product label is a government-regulated certification program that consumers recognize most often with food products. Other naturally grown marketing strategies are utilized by agricultural producers and seem to have an increasing percentage of the market. OMRI, Organic Materials Review Institute, certifies naturally derived products for use in organic productions. Fertilizers, pesticides and other products are marketed with an OMRI certification label.
When it comes to discussions about organic farming or gardening, there is no lack of differing opinions, politics, regulation and misinformation. There is no doubt that this has motivated the development of alternative, naturally grown approaches and marketing strategies. In my experience, the biggest problem farmers and gardeners face is misinformation. The AgriLife Extension is available to provide research-based information on these approaches, but the lack of unbiased funding and support for applied research has limited our ability to support the public with reliable advice on these approaches. Collectively we are learning new approaches every year, but not at a pace to keep up with demand from producers.
Texas A&M Extension Horticulture and the Collin County Master Gardeners have focused their efforts on the Earth-Kind® Environmental Stewardship program. This research-based program goes beyond organic production because it doesn’t rely on expensive, naturally derived inputs or concoctions. It relies on a sound understanding of disease and pest prevention techniques, a natural system for soil health and fertility management, and selecting varieties of plants with strong genetics. Earth-Kind doesn’t have all the answers yet, but we are working towards determining the best management practices for different landscape and crop management systems. Consider that without research, this is as good as it gets.
Regardless of the approach with which you align yourself, collectively our goal should be to protect and preserve the environment and natural resources. Whether you use synthetic or naturally derived fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides, we must use them safely and responsibly to avoid polluting the environment or damaging populations of beneficial organisms. In addition, we must use efficient irrigation systems to conserve our water resources. The bottom line is we must work to provide safe food products and protect our environment for current and future generations.