Son of a Farmer

“Everything is connected. That bond is what keeps this Planet dancing round in poetic choreography. That connection is what keeps us all alive. What we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves. If we are capable of destruction, we are most certainly capable of healing. ” – Eric Herm

Eric Herm, (organic farmer, author, activist and musician) translates modern day agriculture and life through various mediums and venues in his own unique West Texas manner. With plow, pen, guitar and sarcastic wit, Herm plunges forward into a world of tumbleweeds, sandstorms, droughts, GMOs, and rural existence.

Pursuing my dream of Organic Cotton Production

Growing up on a farm, I never really thought it was possible to raise cotton without any form of chemicals. But once I moved back to the farm in 2005, my dream was to pursue organic farming. After years of research which involved reading, searching, digging and asking lots of questions, I began to feel more confident that it was a challenge I could tackle. So, I made that a reality in 2011, as I began the organic transition process on 250 acres.

Last year was the worst year to begin anything, as massive drought consumed all of Texas. The bright side? No weeds. So, I kind of got a break in one area.

I went to my first meeting with the Texas Organic Cotton Growers last week. It was inspiring to be around farmers who’ve been growing chemical-free cotton for 20 years. Meeting many of them, I asked dozens of questions and continue to ask dozens more over the phone and email.

As a newbie into the organic commercial production world, I value the experience of these veteran farmers. Touring one farm 40 miles from me, it was an absolute thrill to see some of the cool innovations made to combat weed issues while cutting back on trips across the field, as well.

Is organic farming doable? Absolutely. I believe it to be the only real future agriculture has in this country, and I’m thrilled to be in the initial stages of this transformation.

No Empirical Clothes Indeed

 Photo by Ted Sabarese

Photo by Ted Sabarese

The  Global Citizens Report on GMOs has been released this past month. Research, data and revealings of GMO crops sheds much light on a dark subject in food and agriculture. The report is called The GMO Emperor Has No Clothes. Vandana Shiva’s Navdanya, Navdanya International and the Center for Food Safety helped publish this report.

On a recent interview I did with Coast to Coast Radio, a fellow farmer called the show to state how they were making higher yields with soybean crops thanks to GM soybeans. But he did go on to mention that Roundup no longer killed their weeds. I want to emphasize to people that while some farmers may claim higher yields with GM crops, it is due to the fact they are able to overcome weed issues with excessive usage of more dangerous herbicides now than Roundup. We’re planting row crops in places now where we haven’t been able to for several years, if not decades because weeds are invading our fields. As farmers switch one poisonous extreme for another, we’re failing to learn from what Nature is revealing to us – that poison is the wrong main ingredient. The same type of herbicide resistant gene that has enabled farmers to spray herbicides on these GM crops has manifested into the weeds of our fields.

The report goes on to say that we have more than 15 million acres of Roundup resistant weeds in the U.S. alone. We’re creating far more problems than we’ll ever solve with GMOs and excessive chemicals. Please read the report. The data is overwhelming but it gives us plenty of facts and material to combat the asinine argument that GMOs are going to help feed an overpopulated starving planet. Bottom line is that GMOs will starve this planet if we continue to let them run rampant.

Quote for the While

“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues. And I’m asking you sir, at the top of my lungs – that thing! That horrible thing that I see! What’s that thing you’ve made out of my truffula tree?” -The Lorax (from Dr. Suess)

What Farmers are signing with RoundUp-Ready crops

The MONSANTO TECHNOLOGY/STEWARDSHIP AGREEMENT states essentially nobody can sue them for extreme amounts of money by the BINDING ARBITRATION AGREEMENT in the beginning of the contract.

The contract also gives M0nsanto permission to any/all files of the farmer’s farming records.

And the grower agrees that…

11. GROWER’S EXCLUSIVE LIMITED REMEDY:
THE EXCLUSIVE REMEDY OF THE GROWER AND THE LIMIT OF THE LIABILITY OF MONSANTO OR ANY SELLER FOR ANY AND ALL LOSSES,
INJURY OR DAMAGES RESULTING FROM THE USE OR HANDLING OF SEED CONTAINING MONSANTO TECHNOLOGY (INCLUDING CLAIMS
BASED IN CONTRACT, NEGLIGENCE, PRODUCT LIABILITY, STRICT LIABILITY, TORT, OR OTHERWISE) SHALL BE THE PRICE PAID BY THE
GROWER FOR THE QUANTITY OF THE SEED INVOLVED OR, AT THE ELECTION OF MONSANTO OR THE SEED SELLER, THE REPLACEMENT OF
THE SEED. IN NO EVENT SHALL MONSANTO OR ANY SELLER BE LIABLE FOR ANY INCIDENTAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, SPECIAL, OR PUNITIVE
DAMAGES.

Thank you for choosing our advanced technologies. We look forward to working with you in the future. If you have any questions regarding the
Monsanto Technologies or this license, please call the Monsanto Customer Relations Center at: 1-800-ROUNDUP.

I Am Nature

I am Nature

Nature is me

talking walks

through my subconscious

through my dreams

taking old man naps

beneath an old oak tree

I planted when just a boy

Wind howls mine name

sun scorches mine labor

autumn comforts mine transformation

cold rattles mine bones

reminding me of the fragility

the temporary nature of seasons

changing colors

evolving others

so we complete the cycle’s circle

and wake

to find ourselves

dreaming the perfect dream

The Real Truth About GMOs

* Genetically-modified organisms are often labeled as GM (genetically-modified), GE (genetically-engineered), or GMO.

* GMOs are injected with cells from other living organisms or chemicals such as bacillus theringensus (organic pesticide) and glyphosate (active ingredient in the Roundup herbicide).

* This combination of foreign DNA into one organism creates an endless number of unexpected reactions in nature. For example, GM plants can act as a pesticide themselves or produce toxic-qualities much like a pesticide.

* The Flavr Savr Tomato was the first GM crop grown in 1994. It was a failure by the end of 1996.

* GMOs are linked directly to SDS (sudden-death syndrome), high-infertility and abortion rates in livestock.

* Three consecutive generations of mammals fed solely on a GM diet, are unable to produce another  generation. They become sterile and/or barren.

* GMO crops will not outperform indigenous crops grown in the same conditions.

* GMO crops reduce soil life and vitality due to necessary use of excessive herbicides.

* Long-term effects on humans are relatively unknown as we are all guinea pigs of this scientific experiment.

* U.S. Crops that are currently GM include:

Corn – 88%                      Cotton – 90%

Canola – 85%                   Soybeans – 94%

Hawaiian Papaya – 50%

(totaling more than 100 million acres)

* There are also small amounts of GM sugar beets, sugar cane, rice, potatoes, tobacco, sweet peppers, zucchini, and summer squash…that are known.

* In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court approved of the deregulation of GM alfalfa. This law knocked down the door, allowing the pursuit of any and all crops to be genetically-modified. There are 21 million acres of alfalfa in the U.S.

* More than 30 countries have banned GMOs, including most European countries, Ireland, Japan, and many others.

* Food companies such as Kraft and Kellogg’s do not put GM ingredients in their food products in those countries, but they do in the United States.

* GM wheat, grapes, and grass are currently in advanced research stages.

* GM salmon has also been produced. These mutated salmon have proven to be overly aggressive, killing native or natural salmon.

* There are also more than 50 different GM tree plots growing in forests across several southeastern states.

* The excessive use of Roundup (or glyphosate), which is needed with GMO crops, has been known to prevent the plant from accessing key nutrients. This creates a nutrient-starved plant, which has little to zero nutrition when consumed by other creatures.

* GMO crops and excessive chemical use is believed to be directly linked to CCD (colony collapse disorder) in our honeybee population.

* Superweeds have developed here in the United States as a result of excessive Roundup use on fields. Weeds mutate, developing a resistance to the herbicide.

* Monsanto no longer makes the Bollguard I seed variety due to the fact bollworms have developed a resistance to the seed’s pesticide gene.

* GM companies such as Monsanto, Bayer Crop Science, DuPont, Dow Chemical, and Syngenta dominate agriculture and generate more than $30 billion in profits each year from seed and chemical sales.

Lyrics for "Give Seeds a Chance"

Check out the music video here. Below are the lyrics. Hopefully, we can all sing this together during the Right 2 Know March in a few weeks.

GIVE SEEDS A CHANCE

© 2011 by Eric Herm

Everybody talking ’bout

herbicide, pesticide, fungicide, inside, outside

Roundup, 2,4-D, atrazine

poison is as poison does

All we are saying is give seeds a chance

All we are saying is give seeds a chance

Everybody talking ’bout

corn, cotton, canola, soybeans, alfalfa,

tomatoes, potatoes,

no more genetic-modified bye-bye, bye-bye

All we are saying is give seeds a chance

All we are saying is give seeds a chance

Everybody talking ’bout

GMOs, Monsanto, politicos, Syngenta,

Bayer Crop, DuPont, Dow Chemical

corporations selling nations toxic genes

All we are saying is give seeds a chance

All we are saying is give seeds a chance

Everybody talking ’bout

environment, government, locavore, herbivore,

carnivore, existence, resistance, pollution, solution

this is a brand new food revolution

All we are saying is give seeds a chance

All we are saying is give seeds a chance

Everybody Eats

As humans, we tend to forget our bond with the rest of living creatures within Nature. Despite our magical tendencies of driving shiny automobiles, donning the latest fashion, constructing extravagant cities, or making full-use of opposable thumbs, we’re really no different than the rest of Nature in the fact we all eat, drink, breathe, and sleep.

The magical recipe of thriving human health is really quite basic: healthy food and water, regular exercise, sufficient rest, and minimum stress are major steps affording us a higher-quality life. Nature is no different. Plants, trees, and the soil are all living, breathing creatures in need of food (humus), water (rain), and exercise (sunshine), rest, as well as minimum stress. Everybody eats. So too does every living thing.

Knowing this, why would we willingly continue to feed toxic chemicals to our food and fiber crops? In commercial agriculture, we bombard our fields and crops with herbicides, pesticides, and genetically-modified (GM) crops without fully accepting the responsibilities or repercussions. Poison is the main ingredient in commercial agriculture’s recipe. In 2007, more than 2 billion pounds of herbicide were used worldwide, one-fourth (541 million pounds) were used in the United States. Globally, we spent more than $14 billion and over $5 billion in the U.S. just on herbicides alone, according to an FDA report. America also purchased more than 1.1 billion pounds of pesticides in 2007, totaling more than $12.5 billion in sales.

We’re planting more than 100 million acres of GM (genetically-modified) crops each year. In 2011, major commodity crops such as corn, cotton, canola and soybeans are now 90 percent genetically-modified. Those numbers are increasing while more than 30 countries across the globe have banned GMOs altogether. Yet in America, our own President Obama appoints a former Monsanto big wig (Michael Taylor) as the Food Czar of the FDA.

GM food tastes awful compared to organic or natural crops. Would we rather enjoy cheap, nutrition-less food that tastes like the south end of a north-bound skunk or a higher-priced, high-quality bounty of nature that will replenish us with more vitamins and minerals? When we pay less for compromised food, we end up paying more in doctor visits, prescriptions, and other healthcare costs. Everything is linked. We are what we eat, thus impacting every other aspect of our lives.

Most people have no clue what GMOs or GM food and crops are. It is essentially fake food and seed. They are organisms that have been injected with genes from another living organism, allowing them to resist certain insects and sustain herbicides such as Roundup. The active ingredient is glyphosate, which is proving to cause further damage to not only the soil but livestock that eat the GM feed from these crops. We’re poisoning the animals we eat – beef, pork, chicken – they are all eating 90 percent a genetically-modified diet. What we are cooking at home and barbequing on the weekends for our friends and family is essentially poisoned meat.

As a fourth generation farmer, I’ve seen firsthand the destruction of this disastrous recipe. We have more weeds and insects issues than ever, accompanied by more soil-degradation due to mono-cropping, excessive chemicals, and GMO (genetically-modified organism) production. Chemical companies are running agriculture now. We’ve created billion-dollar corporations that do not need to exist because we’re buying products that weaken our fields and crops, creating the need for more products to overcome the diseases and malnourishment they cause.

We continue to treat long-term problems with short-term solutions. In the process, we’re making billion-dollar companies out of the likes of Monsanto, Bayer Crop Science, DuPont, Dow Chemical and Syngenta. Meanwhile, farmers continue to go out of business. There remain less than one million farmers in America, representing a fraction of one percent of the total population. We’re attempting to feed and clothe more than 350 million people each year with this corrupt system.

It is critical we all get involved with our food. That starts with educating ourselves about what we are eating, where it comes from, and whether or not it is genetically-modified. We have to read labels at grocery stores, find out the ingredients in these foods and avoid the ones with genetically-modified ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup.

Buying local, organic food as much as possible helps support our local community’s economy, as well as supporting our family’s health and local farmers. We need to get involved with our local food coops, farmers markets, community gardens, pick-your-own gardens, or whatever is available in our communities. More people need to be growing their own food to help support a more sustainable lifestyle.

National organizations also need our support such as the Center for Food Safety, Organic Consumers Association, and others help fight important legislation battles. The Organic and Non-GMO Report is a wonderful source that keeps us involved with what’s happening with our food. Many books are also available such as Son of a Farmer, Child of the Earth (shameless plug) that inform readers about GMOs, providing endless resources.

An incredibly important event is coming up this October. The Right 2 Know March begins in Brooklyn, New York, on October 1st, as hundreds of thousands of people are expected to march more than two weeks all the way to Washington D.C. on October 15th and 16th in front of the nation’s capital. We are promoting GMO awareness and demanding GM foods be labeled. (www.right2knowmarch.org)

This farmer will be there for this historical event. We are all impacted by Nature, by our food supply. Everybody eats. Now, everybody just needs to get involved.

Water's Vitality

As we near completion of this severe drought’s 12th month, it is important we focus on the positive aspect of rains coming. Everywhere you go, individuals are predicting further doomsday for us in the American southwest. The mind is very powerful, and if you get enough people thinking negatively on the same subject matter, we can and do influence outcomes. So, why not imagine rainfall? Why not imagine slow, long rains soaking the Earth for several days? (For those of you living along floodplains at the moment, I’m certain you’re in a different mentality. But you get what I’m saying.)

Some wells are literally going dry. Homes outside of Big Spring and surrounding areas are pumping air in their water wells. This is not rampant yet, but there are isolated cases already reported in the area. This is a warning light for certain. Rather than putting millions of dollars into some type of plant that is going to recycle our urine, we need to be installing water catchment systems so we are harvesting every last drop that falls. While we haven’t received much, every little bit helps. A half inch rain on 10,000 square feet of rooftops equates to more than 3,000 gallons of water. We need to be working with Nature rather than against Her. We need to be reading the tea leaves and adjusting our game plan rather than riding the sunken ship to the bottom of a derelict sea.

A Vision of Nature

by ERIC HERM

 

In order to fully understand nature

to welcome ourselves back into Nature

we must view our self

as a rushing river

a still pond

or ocean waves crashing on beach

we must look at our body

as a jagged mountain peak

rolling prairie

or dew-covered valley

we must envision our mind as a rainstorm,

bolt of lightning

or clap of thunder

We must realize our spirit is the sunrise,

moon’s glow

and star’s fall

we must hear our own voice in the rooster’s crow,

coyote’s cry

and owl’s infinite question of the night

we are empowered to do all of this

through Earth,

sky

wind

water

and fire

Back to the Garden

Took a short trip into New Mexico, escaping 105 degree temperatures, sandstorms, and excessive winds. While the high temperatures were 20 degrees lower, even the Rocky Mountains haven’t escaped this drought. Parched grasslands plagued much of the landscape along back roads and highways, as late-July scenery looked like the dead of winter. The paved road disappeared into a watery inferno, Nature’s cruel illusion of water’s presence in times of drought. Hundreds of acres burned near Ruidoso as charred remnants of pine trees stood like used matches overlooking the tourist town. Rain poured for about an hour, as thunderstorms popped up here and there only to fizzle out, as if the clouds used all their energy just to darken the midday summer heat.

Walking the streets of Sante Fe, it sprinkled three consecutive days but no significant moisture filled the sky. As we drove back to West Texas, the reality of the drought was a sobering homecoming. Even irrigation fields of cotton can’t overcome this drought. The vast majority of pivots were pumping to no avail, as plants were blooming in the top, signifying their surrender.

In just a few days, many rows in my garden had withered severely. I’m back at it now, trying to convince these plants to produce in extreme and utterly unforgiving conditions. This drought is a genuine gut check, as well as a reality check. It’s a test of true grit. While all of us here in the south (and particularly the southwest) U.S. anxiously await a two or three-day rain, it’s vital we hold our heads skyward and our bare feet in the garden.

Huber Interview in Acres USA

A recent interview in Acres USA Magazine’s May 2011 Issue with Dr. Don Huber sheds a lot of light on GMOs, Roundup, and Roundup Ready crops. Dr. Huber is a plant pathologist who has specialized in biology and control of soilborne pathogenic fungi, microbial ecology, biological control, microbial interactions and host-parasite physiology. In short, he’s spent more than 50 years as a plant pathologist. He recently retired from Purdue University. Dr. Huber sent a now infamous letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on January 11, 2011, highlighting his concerns with GMOs, glyphosate, and a newly-discovered organism that “promotes diseases of both plants and mammals, which is very rare.” This new organism is linked directly to GMOs and the herbicide Roundup (or other herbicides now containing glyphosate.) Glyphosate is the active ingredient used to kill vegetation in these particular herbicides. Roundup has been used predominantly with Roundup Ready crops since the early 1990s. Roundup is also used as a commercial spray for lawns and gardens all across the United States.

In interviews, I’ve compared planting and eating GMOs to “making love to a toxic blow-up doll every night. It’s a poor substitute for the real thing.” That continues to be my best analogy of this dangerous subject. So long as we don’t realize what we are doing, it is difficult to know how severe the problem truly is. Education and awareness are our main sources of winning this fight. As more scientists like Dr. Huber continue to come forward with their studies, I’m confident we’re getting closer to that realization here in America.

Here are some quotes from Huber in that interview:

On diseases, pathogens caused by GMOs and bio-genetic technology:

“They find it (newly discovered organism) with cattle and pigs and horses and poultry…In trying to identify how the animals were being infected, they began looking at the feed and found that soybean meal was just loaded with it. They also find it in silage and corn products…The Fusarium fungus that causes Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS) is very compatible with this new organism…This new organism may be an opportunistic that is able to take advantage of a weakened condition and then really move forward.”

“High infertility and abortions in animals with corn and soybean feeds containing high populations of this organism.”

On glyphosate, the active ingredient in the Roundup herbicide that kills plants:

“The difference with glyphosate is that it is not specific to just one mineral nutrient, but immobilizes many of them and doesn’t affect a primary mechanism to cause death by itself. It merely turns of the plant’s defense mechanisms so that soil-borne fungi that would normally take weeks to months to damage a plant can kill it in just a few days after glyphosate is applied.”

“It’s not quite analogous, but you could say that what you’re doing with glyphosate is you’re giving the plant a bad case of AIDS. You’ve shut down the immune system or the defense system.”

“That can be quite damaging to the crop and actually limit uptake of nutrients required by the crop as much as 60 to 70 percent, and that’s pretty much across the board…the plant can’t utilize them because of glyphosate’s toxicity.”

“There is an increasing level of glyphosate in our food chain, and with the toxicological date that’s now available, the levels are often many times the level that would send up a very serious concern from a clinical laboratory standpoint. Some of that data shows that quite low levels of glyphosate are very toxic to liver cells, kidney cells, testicular cells, and the endocrine hormone system, and it becomes important because all of the systems are interrelated. We’re finding high levels of glyphosate in manure. You have to ask how the chicken got it or how the hog or cattle got it, and of course, that’s through their feed. Is it all moving through the animal or is it also into their meat and other tissues?”

“It (glyphosate) can stunt the plant for a time before the plant recovers in a sterile soil. But in a non-sterile soil, you shut down that secondary system responsible for defense against those soil pathogens and it’s like tying both hands behind the back and letting them trounce on it.”

Summer Projects... and more Projects

Since there is no cotton or any other crop for that matter this summer, it’s left all us farmers with plenty of spare time on our hands. What do we do to keep from “chewin’ on our tongue” as one old-timer put it? For me, it has been the summer of projects.

One tireless chore after another. I’m actually getting quite handy. I’ve tiled an entire bathroom and closet, put in irrigation for all our trees, built mobile chicken coops, and several other odd jobs. Working on everything from carpentry, landscaping, plumbing, and gardening skills to just slowin’ down the freight train and learning to enjoy summer…despite the heat and drought. Been able to spend more quality time with my family than ever. Got to look at the bright side of things.

On the farm, so many chores pile up over the years, it’s easy to lose count or motivation to get started on them. But this summer has allowed many of us to get lots of odds and ends tied up. When Mother Nature gives us this kind of time to do something else, we have to take advantage of it…because that’s one of the ways we keep from chewin’ our tongue off in 100+ degree heat everyday for weeks, even months on end.

Still writing…working on several literary projects, as well. Gotta sharpen the mind as well as the body. Been reading Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America. Amazing how things have gotten so much worse in agriculture since he wrote that classic in 1977.

As the summer heat and drought continue, most of us down here in Texas just try to focus on the fact that as every single day passes, we’re one day closer to a good rain.

The Art of Opposing GMOs

Here’s the thing about being against GMOs: We’re in the minority. Not because so many Americans think there is nothing wrong with genetically-modified crops and food, but simply because most Americans have no idea what they are. It is our job, those of us who do know, to continue to beat the drum on this issue. It’s not up to someone else. It’s up to each one of us.

So, get active. Get involved. This impacts everyone and everything! As long as we do nothing, say nothing, and accept whatever sadistic legislation is passed in favor, nothing will change. We cannot convince ourselves we are helpless, that this is too big for us to fight. On the contrary, we must be bigger than the challenge. Everyone loves a good underdog.

http://www.organicconsumers.or?g/articles/article_23568.cfm