Bucking Conventional Farming Trends in Illinois

By Sandy K. Johnson

Next time you pick up an organic tofu burrito at Chipotle, think about Craig and Beth Bussmann. They’re organic farmers in Gillespie, Illinois, and some of their soybeans may have worked their way through the food chain to your burrito.

The Bussmanns made the decision in 1997 to transition from conventional farming to organic. It took three years to meet organic standards, and the farm was certified organic in 2001. It can be lonely – they were the first in the county to go organic, and there are only 219 organic producers out of 75,000 farms in Illinois.

The reward is multi-fold. It’s financial, in that organic grains bring more money to the producer – an organic premium. Bussmann said his organic soybeans fetch $30 a bushel, compared with $10.50 for conventional soybeans, for example. He also said his soil and water quality have improved since he quit using pesticides and herbicides, as has wildlife on his 232 acres.

He markets his grain through the Midwest Organic Farmers Cooperative, which represents 110 members in four states for collective clout.

Bussmann is passionate about organic farming, yet he acknowledges that he might not be able to make a living just from it. He and his wife both have jobs off the farm.

This program is funded by Monsanto, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Pork Board, and the Organic Trade Association. NPF is solely responsible for the content.

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