What does organic farming have to do with the oceans? Actually a lot, as I learned today while covering the news that Maureen Wilmot will take over as the executive director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation on Jan. 1.
Wilmot has a long history in the ocean conservation movement, and she plans to use that experience to grow OFRF’s understanding of how agricultural practices affect the health of the world’s oceans.
“What goes into the soil through different farming practices runs off—so if you’re putting pesticides on your crops, those get into the soil and into our waterways and into our oceans,” said Wilmot, who served as the executive director of the Ocean Wilderness Network and the Seatuck Environmental Association prior to joining OFRF in 2009. “When you support organic farming practices, you are helping keep the oceans clean.”
As Wilmot told me, she plans to use this understanding to forge stronger bridges between OFRF and the ocean conservation community. Such efforts, she added, will be part of a larger initiative to build a broader base of support for American organic farmers. "I want to reach out to other constituents, including folks who may not think of organic farming as a way to help their own causes."
Often when organic is in the media, the discussion centers around the nutritional value of organic produce and other organic foods—but this represents only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the full range of health, environmental and societal benefits associated with organic agricultural practices. It is also actually one area where the evidence proving organic agriculture’s superiority over conventional agriculture is perhaps the weakest.
That’s why I applaud Wilmot and OFRF’s strategy of documenting the many benefits of organic agriculture (which the organization is working to compile for publication next spring), and then using this information to grow the organic industry’s base of supporters to include even those who may never have contemplated the value of organic in the past.