Earth Day 2013 Ephrata farm recognized
By: BETH MYERS Review Correspondent, Staff Writer
Ephrata’s John Lapp takes great care to respect conventional farmers, but it is his personal belief that organic farming will produce a higher quality product.
Horizon Organic agrees. Since John and his wife Malinda began to transition their dairy farm, Flintstone Acre Farm, to organic in 2000, they have won the Quality Award from Horizon every year but one. It’s not just a quality product that organic practices promote. It is reported that organic farming is more sustainable for the environment, has a higher nutritional value for the consumer and makes for a healthier cow.
"It’s always good to have a cow outside in the sunshine and fresh air," says John.
That is a belief that Horizon Organic shares. Nearly 20 years ago, Horizon Organic became the first company to sell organic milk nationwide. With values like "health, community, and environmental stewardship," Horizon Organic and Flintstone Acre Farm have partnered up with the common goal of supporting a healthy planet and healthy families.
It was John and Malinda’s own family that inspired them to make the transition to organic farming. With six children helping around the farm, the couple was concerned about chemical use in conventional farming.
"We wanted to be able to walk around barefoot in our own yard, without worrying about the chemicals that might be in it," John says.
John admits that the transition to organic farming is more difficult than conventional farming, but stresses that the regulations are "not that bad if it’s something you really want to do."
Once John and Malinda made the decision to become a certified organic farm in 1995, they began the three-year transition to organic. This period is necessary for the chemicals to work their way out of the soil. Additional regulations include; no genetically engineered seeds, which requires a 20-foot buffer area between Flintstone Acre Farm and farms nearby that use chemicals, in order to prevent cross-pollination of GMO (genetically modified organism) corn with their own; no chemicals; and no drugs for the cows. In order to be certified organic, they were also required to fill out more paperwork and commit to yearly inspections by Pennsylvania Certified Organic, a USDA accredited organic certifying agency.
During the transition period, John notified Horizon that he could supply organic milk. Horizon kept him updated, provided information, and even helped him with the upfront investment into organic farming. Thanks to his determination and the aide of Horizon Organic, John became a top Pennsylvania organic milk supplier in 2000.
"It wasn’t that hard once I made up my mind to do it," John says.
His commitment to organic farming has not wavered since. In addition to higher quality milk and a healthier herd, he takes comfort in the added assurance that he’s doing the right thing for the environment and his family. Three of his children have married and moved out, but they took with them the knowledge that the natural way of doing things can often solve problems without the use of medicine or chemicals. John is proud to have instilled the value of working with the earth in his children. He’s happy to see them pass this education along to their own spouses who may not have grown up around organic practices.
"Nature works the way it’s supposed to," says John.
A sentiment that is all too true, but often forgotten in our busy society. John reminds people that they don’t have to own a large farm to employ organic practices and support a healthy planet. It can start in your own backyard.
"Chemical fertilizers damage the microbes in the soil," says John. When you change the composition of something, it can’t "do its job like God intended."
Even dandelions, which many people consider a nuisance, are there for a reason, John explains. With a deep tap root, dandelions help to open up the soil. They are also a liver cleanser for cows. An excess of dandelions could indicate a calcium deficiency in the soil. Organic tips such as these encourage working with the nature, rather than against it.
"People may not realize that when they use chemicals in their yard, they are using more chemicals per acre than the average conventional farmer," John says. "It’s something to think about."
We may not think about it enough. Earth Day is an opportunity to reflect on the changes that we can make to create a more sustainable planet.
"Even if you have it in the back of your mind that you might want to go organic, do it," encourages John.
When asked for his best advice in how to go about that, John answers simply, "Faith. You have to have faith in your belief to complete it." More EARTH DAY, page A16