Organic Farmers Pooh-Pooh Poop

After 15 years of organic farming in New Mexico’s Española Valley, Don Bustos has decided to go vegan. That is, he’s now farming without any animal fertilizers or byproducts. Giving up manure, blood meal, and pesticides seems pretty tough, but the Associated Press explains the dangers of the animal products:

Salmonella and e-coli are bacteria that live in the intestines of livestock and are present in their waste. Livestock waste, or manure, can be used to fertilize fields, potentially contaminating crops with the disease-causing bacteria.

Crops can also be contaminated by contact with infected animals or their byproducts, including bone meal and blood meal, which are used as fertilizer as well.

To fertilize his crops, Bustos uses “green manure,” or composted plant matter. He doesn’t use pesticides at all because, well, hard-core vegans believe that bugs deserve animal rights, too. (I recently learned that serious vegans don’t even wear silk—to protect all those enslaved silkworms … who knew?)

According to Stephane Groleau, cofounder of the Veganic Agriculture Network, there are only about a dozen veganic farms in the United States, but veganic methods are more popular in Europe due to “concerns over livestock diseases transferring to humans.” Veganic farmer Ron Khosla, who operates the Huguenot Street Farm in New Paltz, New York, makes a rather disturbing point about the veggies harvested at nonveganic organic farms:

‘You think you are getting these clean happy vegetables, but more often than not they’re grown in waste from factory farms,’ he said. ‘The animals … were fed non-organic feed laced with hormones and antibiotics. Those products bio-accumulate in the animals and it’s present in their waste as well.’

I don’t really understand the science behind this stuff. But even if the cows were heavily dosed, how much of the hormones and antibiotics are ending up in their manure, and then what percentage of that could be making its way through the soil, through the plants, and into your vegetables? Seems to me it would be minimal … or maybe that’s just what I’ve got to tell myself to keep enjoying food as much as I do.