When I was eleven working on my family farms in Emmetsburg, our license plate proudly stated “Iowa, A Place To Grow”. That has never been truer than today. What has changed for my family is how we farm, moving from conventional chemical-based farming to organic.
Today our organic crop rotations include corn, oats, soybeans, alfalfa and other small grains, all in support of feeding a hungry world. Each year our soil yields more information about our fields and as we learn more, we adapt our rotations to support natures amazing ability to balance and produce. Little did I know back when I was eleven that farming could yield so much more.
Today, our organic farms also grow carbon in our soil by sequestering CO2, drawing it out of the atmosphere and storing in the ground.
As reported in Science Magazine (in scientific detail), “The soil organic carbon (SOC) pool represents a dynamic equilibrium of gains and losses. Conversion of natural farmland to chemical-based agricultural causes depletion of the SOC pool by as much as 60% in soils …. mostly emitted into the atmosphere. Severe depletion of the SOC pool degrades soil quality, reduces biomass productivity and adversely impacts water quality”.
Our organic farms follow the USDA organic standards as set forth by the National Organic Program that eschews the use of chemicals thereby reversing the negative impact of chemical-based farming by increasing soil health, improving water quality while farming carbon back into the soil.
In Iowa, we also grow energy, wind energy, that frees the world from a diminishing and polluting supply of fossil fuels. MidAmerican Energy, recently announced that it has opened two huge wind farms in Iowa. The two projects, called Beaver Creek and Prairie, total 169 turbines and have a combined capacity of 338 megawatts, enough to meet the annual electricity needs of 140,000 Iowa homes.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, Iowa is something of a hidden powerhouse in American wind energy. The technology provides an astonishing 36.6 percent of the state’s entire electricity generation. It also has the second largest amount of installed capacity in the nation at 6917MW. The wind farms form part of MidAmerican Energy’s major Wind XI project, which will see an extra 2,000MW of wind power built, and $3.6 billion invested, by the end of 2019.
As reported in The Scientist, dedicated to exploring life inspiring innovation, “Many of the most widely used antibiotics have come out of the dirt. Penicillin came from Penicillium, a fungus found in soil, and vancomycin came from a bacterium found in dirt. Now, researchers from Northeastern University and their colleagues have identified a new Gram-positive bacteria-targeting antibiotic from soil samples that can kill species including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Moreover, the researchers have not yet found any bacteria that are resistant to the antibiotic, called teixobactin”.
For this new bacteria-targeting antibiotic to thrive and save lives, it requires healthy soil that is not contaminated by chemicals that diminish the soil biome.
Every dollar we spend anywhere is tightly connected to agriculture. Because, if it weren’t for a six-inch layer of healthy topsoil and the fact that it rains … we would have nothing.
Iowa organic farming is indeed, “A Place To Grow” many amazing crops.