Crazy Acres Ain't so Crazy Anymore
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) lists organic farming under ‘alternative farming,’ but Richard Vanderziel, organic farmer at Crazy Acres in Chandler, Minn. believes it will expand beyond that in the future.
“It’s become much more public. It used to be nobody knew about it and you were crazy, which is why our place is called ‘Crazy Acres,’” Vanderziel, said with a laugh. “When I first did it, you didn’t do it for the money at all; now there’s some people that do it not because they believe in it, but because it’s profitable.”
He may not have been organic certified in farming until 2002, but Vanderziel has been farming under a similar style since he began in the 1970s.
Not only do his cattle produce organic milk, but the feed they eat must be organically produced. So Vanderziel raises organic hay, grass, corn and barley crops.
No synthetic substances can be used on the land; this means herbicides, insecticides and fertilizers must be natural. Manure is often used as a fertilizer on organic farms and there are some natural substances that can be used as insecticides and herbicides.
No antibiotics, hormones or artificial growth stimulants can be used on the cattle or they must be removed from the herd. And the cattle must have access to outside space and graze on pasture at least 120 days out of the year, Vanderziel said.
Feeding cattle for an organic dairy farm requires a larger emphasis on what the cattle ingests: more hay and grass and less grain. A high forage diet helps prevent some health problems that can be caused by diets high in grain, a necessity without antibiotics.
Some of the struggles Vanderziel has encountered include treating cattle without antibiotics and treating weeds on cropland. He uses minerals and vitamins to combat health problems and focuses on crop rotation to reduce weeds. The weeds are something Vanderziel struggles with as an organic farmer. In recent years he has begun using a flame cultivator to burn the weeds and fight weed growth.
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