Hydroponic Methods Create Divide In Organic Farming Industry

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Jacksonville, Fla. The rise of “hydroponic,” or greenhouse-grown vegetable farming, has caused back-lash from traditional, organic vegetable farmers.

A group of organic farmers, led by Dave Chapman, a vegetable farmer in East Thetford, VT, orchestrated a protest at a meeting of The National Organic Standards Board in Jacksonville, Florida in an effort to denounce hydroponic farming. Unfortunately, their efforts failed to convince the board, who voted 8-7 against a ban on hydroponic methods. “It really goes to the foundation of what organic farming means,” says Chapman.

Traditional, organic farmers believe that nurturing the soil is a fundamental part of organic farming. They feel that a vegetable grown without its roots simply should not be called organic. Albert Howard, the man who founded the organic farming movement, wrote that “the health of soil, plant, animal and man is one and indivisible.” Today’s traditional, organic farmers do their best to uphold Howard’s philosophy.

Hydroponic farmers believe they still uphold the principles of organic, as their method allows vegetables to be grown affordably year-round without use of harmful pesticides. Hydroponic farming is also extremely environmentally conscious.

“We can grow our tomatoes organically with 3 to 5 gallons of water, per pound of production, as opposed to growing tomatoes in open fields, which can use anywhere from 26 to 37 gallons of water,” says Jessie Gunn, an employee of hydroponic farming company Wholesum Harvest. She says growing crops in open fields, “uses more water, more land, destroys more natural habitat.”

Hydroponic-grown vegetables are quickly taking over grocery stores. Marianne Cufone,The Recirculating Farms Coalition’s Executive Director, issued a statement saying that “the NOSB is sending a critical message that sustainability and innovation are valuable in U.S. agriculture.”

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