We don't have enough organic farms. Why not?
FORT BENTON, MONTANAIt’s been weeks since he harvested his farm’s grains, and though Casey Bailey’s fields are mostly bare, something is brewing below.
He kneels on the ground, covered by a thin layer of straw as far as the eye can see, and prods gingerly into the soil. Barely scratching the surface, he points to white, fiber-like strands—hyphae, the filaments of a fungus—a worm and then a spider racing for cover.
“The soil organisms, there’s like a billion in a teaspoon,” he says. To Bailey, whose livelihood depends on soil, it’s a sign that one of his experiments is paying off.
Bailey, 38, lives on the farm where he grew up, but he’s adding a twist to the family tradition. In place of what he calls the farm’s “rigid, chemical-based” practices, he’s transitioning his 5,000 acres to organic farming methods.
It hasn’t been an easy switch. He’s navigated challenges through trial and error because—despite the growth of organic agriculture—there isn’t a mentor or a playbook to follow. On a conventional farm, he says, “I can hire sprayers to come out and spray our whole farm within a day, and then come and spread the nutrients, the fertilizer. I can’t do that with organic.”