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Why I Weed

The primary reason I weed is to make sure I don’t lose a crop. It would be fair to say that I am a weed tolerant farmer.  A few weeds don’t bother me, but I prefer they don’t go to seed and repopulate! Too many weeds can smother a crop and keep it from maturing.

This year has been a challenge. Six inches of rain in June is a lot and it has delayed us from working in the field more than once. The rain did NOT delay the weeds from growing though! It’s going to take a herculean effort this week to get caught up and hopefully stay ahead of the weeds for the rest of the summer and fall.

Speaking of weeds, right now the corn in the valley is about 3–6 inches tall and weedy. In a few weeks, when the weather is dry enough, the dairy farmers will fire up the sprayers and spray the entire field with glyphosate and kill everything but the corn that has been genetically altered to survive the chemical onslaught. 

My neighbors grow a lot of corn for silage. Silage is akin to Kimchi for cows. Most of the local corn seed planted is GMO seed and is injected with glyphosate to create a Roundup-ready resistant corn crop (aka Genetically Engineered or Genetically Modified). They will spray hundreds of acres in the same time it will take me to hoe and hand weed a ¼ acre of vegetables. They are busy spraying 60 feet at a time, and I am busy hoeing 6 inches at a time. Before the days of GE/GMO crops, farmers spent a lot of time mechanically weeding their fields. When GMO corn hit the market, many farmers felt liberated from the sweat and toil of weeding and their per acre expenses dropped significantly. But some farmers were skeptical, despite the efficiencies. 

The USDA told farmers that it was safe, and the biotechnology should be trusted.  Some farmers bucked the system and became GMO-free or organic and many consumers responded by supporting those farmers and their crops. The GMO-free farmers still use pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers, but they don’t use GMO seeds. I want to be clear GMO-free or non-GMO labels are not the same as ORGANIC. Organic farmers do not use GMO seed AND do not use synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides. GMO-free is good, but organic is better, better for the environment and for the health of the general public, and the consumer.

Americans have applied 1.8 million TONS of glyphosate since its introduction in 1974.  Scientists have linked glyphosate to cancer.  We’d rather weed by hand, hoe or mechanical tillage.  It’s harder work and more time consuming, but that’s okay.  We feel good about it!

Thank you for joining us on a healthier journey for you and the environment.

Tristan Klesick