HIRAM, Ohio — Organic is the only way to go. At least that’s what Mapleside Farm in Geauga County believes.
Clarence and Lowell Moore are certified to produce various grains, including oats, spelt, soybeans and corn. They also produce organic hay and organic maple syrup.
The 200-acre farm was established in 1813 with an original 74 acres, and is now in its fifth generation, with Clarence considering full retirement and Lowell taking over most of the responsibilities.
Lowell Moore said the idea to go organic is not a new idea, just an idea that was revisited. He said his dad, Clarence, farmed conventionally for years and then decided some changes needed to be made in the operation.
Lowell had been working on a nearby organic farm, and learned about the changes that would need to be made, how to treat the ground and what types of management changes would be needed.
He became interested in organic farming because, in his view, that is how farming began.
Lowell said he was also concerned about water runoff and how much of the chemicals were showing up in the water supply and eventually the food supply.
“I just don’t see how sprays could be good for the environment in the end,” Lowell said.
He said farmers planted crops and completed a harvest for years upon years before the creation of pesticides and genetically modified crops, so it made sense that the process could work again.
Mapleside Farm began making the transition to organic production in 1997.
Lowell said the management of organic crops is what is key and is what keeps the operation continuing.
For example, oats are planted mostly as a cover crop. Weeds are combated by cutting the crop early and then producing oat hay.
Many organic farmers know about the battle that rages with giant ragweed in some fields. Lowell said he cultivates the ground as much as possible when the soybeans are short enough and mows in the field until the beans’ height prohibits it.
“Farming is all about timing,” Lowell said.
The farm earns a premium for its organic crops. Lowell said the price is expected to be around $20 a bushel for organic soybeans this year and last year it averaged between $17-18 a bushel for organic soybeans. He added most of the time it is double the price of conventional soybeans.
However, there is extra management involved — for example, where the conventional soybean grower would use a pesticide to kill the weeds, he needs to manage the problem through tillage or other methods.
The farm also produces a large garden and sells produce from a roadside stand.
“Some years you’ll do good. Some years you don’t. It’s all about the year,” he said.
He added he has found one downfall to not raising livestock on the farm though. It has increased his input costs because the operation does have to purchase fertilizer, which is a combination of humate, poultry manure and sea kelp.
Lowell said he gradually adds fertilizer throughout the season instead of one large dump at the beginning.
A unique feature of Mapleside Farm is the air strip in the middle of the farm. Lowell said his father used to fly ultralights and created the air strip.
In the near future, Lowell wants to get his pilot license so he can use an ultralight airplane to broadcast fertilizer across the fields so continuous applications can be made even when the crop gets too tall for a tractor to cross the field.
He said the best way to be successful in organic farming is to be steady with management practices and monitor the fields weekly. And, he says, it’s still a lot like conventional farming — be willing to make changes and learn as you go.