living underground in the real world

veganic farming is the best farming

When I moved to New Paltz, I naturally sought out all the best farmers. One of the best of the best is Huguenot Street Farm. They are entirely veganic, meaning that they do not use any animal byproducts (factory farm manure, fish meal, blood, bones) to amend their soil. It’s something vegans don’t often think about, but the more you think about it, the more veganic-grown vegetables make sense.

Obviously it’s better to buy local organic or certified naturally grown veggies rather than cross-country (or cross-continent) veganic vegetables (I don’t really think most veganic farms ship their veggies, though), but if I have a choice between vegetables from a farm with no animals and one with pretty cows and chickens, I’ll always choose the veganic one. There are some wonderful, smart, caring farmers in New Paltz (hello Pete Taliaferro – that’s actually his farm in that picture, in truth it is prettier than Huguenot Street Farm, and it is on my weekly bike route – hello Jay Armour), but I like making a game of how pure I can be, and in my book, spilled blood – however gently it is spilled and however nice the animals’ lives were before their blood was spilled – is incompatible with pure food.

Aside from that complex ethical issue, of course, there are very real dangers associated with non-veganic veggies. Because CNN.com says they are going to take it offline in 30 days, I will copy and post this article about veganic farming here. It mentions Kate and Ron, the farmers behind Huguenot Street Farm.

(Thanks to my client LJ for forwarding the article to me!)

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (AP) — The tradition of farming the land in northern New Mexico’s Espanola Valley had been passed down from Don Bustos’ Spanish ancestors who tilled the same soil centuries before.

Don Bustos, one of the few veganic farmers in the U.S., grows some of his crops in greenhouses.

But when Bustos realized the traditional farming techniques he was using could harm his children’s health, he went organic 15 years ago.

Now, Bustos said he has found an even safer method — vegan organic farming without any animal fertilizers or byproducts.

Much like certified organic farmers, veganic farmers use no synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or genetically modified ingredients.

Veganic farmers take it to another level by not using any manures or slaughterhouse byproducts. They don’t even use organically approved pesticides.

Salmonella and e-coli are bacteria that live in the intestines of livestock and are present in their waste. Livestock waste, or manure, can be used to fertilize fields, potentially contaminating crops with the disease-causing bacteria.

Crops can also be contaminated by contact with infected animals or their byproducts, including bone meal and blood meal, which are used as fertilizer as well.

Veganic farmers use crop rotations and composted plant matter — or “green manure” — to fertilize their crops.

Bustos, 51, was inspired to pursue veganic farming four years ago after listening to then-U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns speak.

“He was talking about ways to protect the safety of our food system, but to me you still have things like e-coli and salmonella from manure (fertilizer),” Bustos said. “Now, I use no manures, no bone meals, blood meal, no pesticides, nothing.”

The method, also called stock-free farming, is an emerging concept in the United States.

Stephane Groleau, co-founder of the Veganic Agriculture Network based in Quebec, Canada, said he’s aware of only a dozen veganic farms or gardeners in the U.S. He said the farming method is more popular in England and Europe because of lack of available land for raising livestock and concerns over livestock diseases transferring to humans.

“In Europe, what we see is they import a lot of their meat and they don’t have as many animals on their land. And animals require a lot of space, so if you have just a small holding, it’s very demanding for the farmer,” Groleau said.

Veganic farmers in the U.S. are motivated by the need to protect the environment and human health, said Ron Khosla, who operates the 77-acre vegan organic Huguenot Street Farm in New Paltz, New York, with his wife.

Khosla said the primary source of nutrients on many organic farms in the country comes from manure from confined animal operations, or what he calls “factory farms.” Watch how to choose organic foods »

“You think you are getting these clean happy vegetables, but more often than not they’re grown in waste from factory farms,” he said. “The animals … were fed non-organic feed laced with hormones and antibiotics. Those products bio-accumulate in the animals and it’s present in their waste as well.”

Both Kholsa and Bustos said they have a strong customer base that seeks out their produce because of the vegan growing philosophy as well as a growing awareness about food production.

“Customers are becoming more aware about how their food is grown and the practices by the farmer who’s growing it,” Bustos said. “It’s the customers that are encouraging us to find ways to become more environmentally conscious and efficient.”

Veganic growers say their methods reduce environmental impact by using less land, conserving water and producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

The practice, they say, is also cheaper than traditional farming and organic farming.

Experts say veganic farming has yet to be proven as the silver bullet to better growing practices because of its obscurity on the American farm scene.

“It’s a new enough concept that benefits haven’t been demonstrated one way or the other, either economically or from a quality standpoint,” said Charles Martin, assistant professor at New Mexico State University’s Sustainable Agriculture Science Center.

Though misapplied animal manure can cause crop contamination, it is no more common than other possible ways for salmonella or e-coli to appear in the food supply, said Billy Dictson, director of the Office of Biosecurity for the Southwest Border Food Safety and Defense Center.

“Contamination can happen anywhere, from the field to transportation to field workers to people that come in contact (with produce),” Dictson said.

Walter Goldstein, research director for the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy, Wisconsin, said animal manure has proven quality benefits when growing crops. He said ruminant manure lasts longer in the soil and releases less carbon back into the air than green manure.

“The optimal farm is where livestock are integrated into the land, not separated from it,” Goldstein said.

Farmers can be certified as veganic by meeting standards set by the Soil Association Certification Ltd. in England. However, Khosla is working on veganic standards for American farmers through his organization, Certified Naturally Grown, based in Stone Ridge, New York.

“Since it is not mainstream, we have to find a way for farmers and consumers to exchange knowledge and provide information for farmers to convert to veganic farming,” Groleau said.

22 Responses to “veganic farming is the best farming”

  1. Kathy

    Mr. Khosla fails to mention soils without livestock manure application also contain bacteria such as salmonella or e-coli. His indication of manure as fertilizer as reason for the bacteria, is misleading. Proper handling of all food products is the method for making it safe. Simply washing, refrigeration and proper cooking are primary techniques. Comments from Mr. Dictson are facts.

    Reply
  2. Spike Silverback

    What total militaristic vegan BS. You can’t separate animals from fertility. Heaven help you if your earthworms excrete their manure into your gardens. O and what if the robins crap in your row? Or what happens if you find a rabbit turd in the lettuce.

    Reply
  3. lagusta

    Yo Spike, calm down. No one’s spouting militaristic vegan BS here – I’m just saying that if there is a choice, I prefer to make the veganic choice. If not – not. Earthworms and robins and rabbits are different from factory farm manure.

    And Kathy, of course no one is saying that veganic farming is a substitute for handling food properly.

    Man, people, CALM DOWN!

    Reply
  4. Apsley

    Hi! I am actually desperately looking for someone, at any price, to ship me veganic produce. I live at the moment in NJ. The two veganic farms I know who sell their produce have been massively unhelpful about helping me find a way to get a hold of the stuff. Do you know anyone who subscribes to a veganic farm from whom I could buy lots of yummy veganic produce, who would ship it to me at my expense?

    I only eat wildcrafted/veganic, but I don’t grow food myself, so I am starving!!!

    Thank you for the ‘blog, and for your time.

    Reply
  5. Ken

    Hello,
    I am so stoked about the veganic designation. I’ve been gardening this way for about 8 years now and I’ll never go back to my previous methods. I use only organic hay as mulch. I don’t till, fertilize, weed and need much less water than conventional growers. I don’t worry about ag chemicals in the manure or irrigation. My garden is about twice as productive and since I don’t need to allow space for a tiller, I can fit almost twice as much produce into a given space. I think it’s the way of the future for small organic farming. the one downside to this mulch method is that the grower needs to buy or make his/her own hay – and if you have any kind of acreage, that probably means relying on machinery for hay making.
    I’m am currently renting a small space for my operation, and would like to expand and do a larger veganic farm. However, I don’t quite have the funds. Anyone out there looking for a venture??
    Currently in N. WI
    Veganic rocks!

    Reply
  6. Colin Donoghue

    The nonviolent and common sense revolution is underway. Veganic is healthiest for us and is the most sustainable for the environment as well as the most ethical. Why people resist something so obviously better, just because of their “tradition”, is beyond me. Go Veganic!
    Peace

    Reply
  7. David

    SIGH. Why Vegans wont admit that there is A LOT of space between Factory Farmed animals and “veganic farming”, i will never understand. Are the two cows and handfull of ducks and chickens on my farm ‘slaves’? am i mistreating them by allowing them to graze in the fields, adding manure as they go?

    Reply
    • lagusta

      Nope. Course not. But some of us just choose not to have anything to do with animals in the way of eating and using them. We’re not saying you’re the devil, just that you’re not as cool as us. Calm down.

      Reply
  8. monfreex@yahoo.com

    I took away a lot good points from this entry and will definitely keep it in my RSS. Thanks for taking the time to write about this topic so deeply. I look forward to future posts.

    Reply
  9. goldfarmer

    What is Veganic?

    If I don’t cull my sheep herd to be eaten, but leave them to control weeds and fertilize my orchard, leave them to die naturally with a long life… would that be considered Veganic?

    If not, doesn’t it logically follow that using any animal labor to farm, instead of expensive human labor and polluting Dino-fuel… would animal farm labor NOT be considered Veganic, but Dino-fuel farming WOULD be Veganic?

    Or what about the Earthworm casting tea that I run through my orchard’s irrigation system. Red worms are are classified in the Animal Kingdom. They seem to feel pain and definitely have intelligence. They are farmed on a mass scale and many are killed during the castings extraction process. Does that mean that the use of castings is not Veganic?

    But if the Earthworms are naturally in the fertile ground, supplying their castings directly to the soil bacteria, yeasts, & fungi, which in turn feed the plant roots…
    Is that Veganic?

    Makes me wonder whether my farm is already Veganic.

    Reply
  10. islander

    Hey goldfarmer, you should check out the UK’s vegan organic network for information on veganic farming standards if you’re seriously interested in the topic. Earthworms are a vital component of healthy soil, sheep…not so much!

    Stockfree farming methods are defintely about fossil fuel reduction, not increasing it. And about avoiding the use of domestic animals in agriculture…not the elimination of animal life forms!

    Life and death are obviously interwoven in nature, but veganic farming practises reduce unnecessary exploitation of animals (which can require medical care, and if the term ‘humane’ means anything, actually receive it), resource depletion, the reality that dependence upon animals is simply not sustainable if we truly believe healthy organic food should be a universal human right (there are already not enough organically raised animals to provide chemical free manure as fertilizer to commercial organic vegetable producers, etc… and so inadvertantly even purchasing organic produce doesn’t gaurantee the average consumer that they are NOT supporting factory farming, etc.) We need animal free, green manures, to grow organic food that doesn’t connect back up the food chain to….fossil fuels- the basis of chemical fertilizers, etc…

    It’s time to break the viscious circle, and yes, look outside of small-holding utopic farming which is really very elitist, given the amount of land required to eat organically raised animals), to the reality of global hunger and the unsustainability of meat-centric living. It really is up to people with the privilege of choice to model eating and growoing our food very differently for the majority world hell bent on emulating our supposed ‘good life’….

    The latest UN environmental report (issued June 2, 2010) regarding global food production emphasizes how important it is that ‘we’ collectively reduce our dependence on animal products…the advancement of stock free farming is a vital component to dealing with environmental contamination, including global warming, not to mention world hunger…
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jun/02/un-report-meat-free-diet

    Check out http://www.veganorganic.net for further information.

    Reply
    • goldfarmer

      I just checked out the “verified veganic” standards for the US.

      Respectfully,
      I am definitely NOT Veganic, nor wish to be.

      From the standards –
      “Shooting, poisoning and trapping to kill competing wildlife (including deer, birds, woodchucks) is prohibited.”
      I run a small farm, 18 acres, almonds, olives, and some squash & melons . My gophers would send me to bankruptcy! Not even my 4 owls can keep them controlled without my traps.

      On natural pesticides…
      “ultimately eliminate the use of even organically approved pesticides”, even “Pyrethrins and rotenone & tobacco”.
      This is insane. Sometimes, all the fertility and “right” practices in the world cannot stop an infestation that could decimate you financially. I can’t use herbal pesticides? They have nothing to do with breaking the factory farm cycle. Sounds like you can’t even harm insects, not just mammals.

      On fertility…
      “The veganic farmer must show an annual increase in the ratio of on-farm to purchased fertility management until 90% of the fertility comes from on-farm sources.”
      This is irresponsible at best, delusional at worst. It is not fertility levels that are of importance, but the elimination of off farm inputs, even if they are not animal related at all? This method is supposed to help people in poor nations to deal with “world hunger”? Poor soil can take as long as a quarter century to improve into a living, rich soil capable of sustaining chemical free intensive farming.

      And last from the Standards, a flat out lie…
      “The first goal of Certified Veganic agriculture is to provide a labeling system for organic farmers who are willing to completely sever the tight bond that currently exists between inhumane factory farms and organically grown produce.”
      This is not only a lie, it should be embarrassing elementary school logic, and borders on propaganda. There is no “tight bond” between organic and factory farms. Organic farms have a multitude of choices available that don’t rely on factory farms. I could get all the poop I need from dozens of humane horse stables within a half hour’s drive. Animals that spend more than half there lives lounging around in the pasture are NOT! factory farm animals. And this is just one example of many choices available. Sure, the large farms use factory animal sourced manure, but that is a choice they make, mostly due to the scale of their size. They do not need to use it by default. To equate thousands of smaller organic farmers’ practices with the large ones is a lie and an insult!

      I’m sorry to sound angry. I’m sure you were trying to help and I do appreciate your effort. But in my line of work, I’ve learned to call bullshit for what it is. I do wish every Veganic farmer the best. But I will never stand idle while a Veganic accuses me of having a “tight bond” with factory farms. To be honest, I have this bad after-taste in my mouth after reading those “standards”. I roll my tongue around, sniff the air a bit… and swear there was something religious happening.

      Reply
      • Cheryl D

        Wow some people are insane. Anyway, veganic farming is simple just like vegan eating. You don’t need to use animals to thrive. Simple enough? My husband & I are starting a veganic farm in northen california. We just bought the land and haven’t started yet but if anyone would like to keep in touch my email is cazthedesigner@hotmail.com

  11. Helen Atthowe

    I just found this wonderful site when I began a website, veganicpermaculture.com about my journey to veganic from organic farming. My research over the past 30 years has been on green manures and living mulches. I stopped using any organic pesticides 10 years ago and have published the results of a 2 year USDA-SARE funded study documenting the generalist predators and parasites inhabiting my living mulch system who keep the produce marketable and the farm profitable. The pest managemnt is the easy part! Using green manures alone, makes it a littler harder to get the earliest tomatoes and peppers to market in a cold climate such as Montana, but it is possible. About voles – I have a video on my website with photos of my natual vole patrol.
    I just sold my farm after 17 years because I want to experiment with forest gardening more than I want to wholesale/retail organic vegetables and fruit and because I want to live in BC. However, after reading some of the comments here, I may have to keep my hand in production veganic agriculture somehow…. Hmmmmm. Glad to have found others on this path!

    Helen

    Reply
  12. vegangsterARNP

    Thank you for the few cool links! I agree with Cheryl… some people are insane…clinically. Sigh….but can we blame them? They are inundated day in, day out with the idea that eating carcass is healthy for them. Also, seems to me that the people that left certain comments on here were those already entwined in the system of taking lives for humans; I call it non human martyrdom. Anyhow, Keep up the good work with the blog!

    Reply

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