“In the Second World War,” Samuel Zook began, “my ancestors were conscientious objectors because we don’t believe in combat.” The Amish farmer paused a moment to inspect a mottled leaf on one of his tomato plants before continuing. “If you really stop and think about it, though, when we go out spraying our crops with pesticides, that’s really what we’re doing. It’s chemical warfare, bottom line.”
Eight years ago, it was a war that Zook appeared to be losing. The crops on his 66-acre farm were riddled with funguses and pests that chemical treatments did little to reduce. The now-39-year-old talked haltingly about the despair he felt at the prospect of losing a homestead passed down through five generations of his family. Disillusioned by standard agriculture methods, Zook searched fervently for an alternative.
He found what he was looking for in the writings of an 18-year-old Amish farmer from Ohio, a man named John Kempf. Kempf is the unlikely founder of Advancing Eco Agriculture, a consulting firm established in 2006 to promote science-intensive organic agriculture.
It has a Q&A discussion with Zook:
Morin: Have all of your problems disappeared?
Zook: I wish I could say that, but not entirely. We’re not living in the Garden of Eden yet. One of the main things that has improved is how it feels to farm. Before, if I applied fungicide on my tomatoes, I had to wait three to seven days before I could reenter the area. Now, it’s so nice to just walk in my field any day of the week and not worry a bit. That in itself is huge.
The other thing is, when I used to mix these skull-and-cross-bones chemicals to put in my sprayer, I’d have to be suited up. The children would be around and I’d say, “Now, get in the house. It’s not safe.” Now though, if the children want to help, it’s fine. If I want to mix the solutions better, I’ll just put my hand in to stir it around. Read the entire article.
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