Organic farmers in the United States and Europe are as much different as they are the same.
I thought about that this last month as my wife and I visited three organic dairy farms in Southwest England that supply the organic milk for Kingdom Cheddar, an organic heritage English cheese I have been helping to bring into the U.S. marketplace.
There was no doubt that we weren’t in Colorado anymore. The rolling hills displayed a tapestry of small fields and pastures, all neatly bordered by well-maintained hedges. Stone farmhouses and fences still in use were old when the first homesteaders staked their claims on the High Plains of eastern Colorado.
As I chatted with the dairy farmers around their kitchen tables, and in their milking parlours, I just as easily could have been visiting with an organic dairy farmer in Windsor, Colorado.
These British farmers have taken the plunge to farm organically because they passionately believe that they have a responsibility to nurture the soil, work with nature to produce healthy crops and livestock, and improve the environment they will pass along to their children.
“For me, it’s about the soil,” one farmer told me. “If my soil isn’t healthy, my family won’t be healthy.”
That’s a common refrain among organic farmers. Only the accents are different.
Certainly, organic farmers in England and the United States face unique challenges, and operate in very different marketing systems. But 7,000 miles cannot separate the farmers from the common values they share.