Author: Brian Frederick | Published: February 2018
Jeff Moyer is the Executive Director of Rodale Institute, an independent research institute for organic farming. For decades, Moyer has helped develop new techniques and invent new tools to support organic methods.
The Rodale Institute was founded in 1947 in Kutztown, PA by J.I. Rodale. Inspired by the nitrogen fertilizer shortages during World War II, Rodale wanted to develop practical methods of rebuilding soil fertility. Today, the institute focuses particularly on compost, soil health, weed and pest management, livestock operations, organic certification, wastewater treatment, and climate change. It is home to the longest running comparative study of organic and chemical agriculture, started in 1981.
Moyer is well known for inventing and popularizing the No Till Roller Crimper, a device for weed management. He is a past chair of the National Organic Standards Board, a founding board member of Pennsylvania Certified Organic, the Chairman of the Board of Director of The Seed Farm, a member of the Green America Non-GMO Working Group, a Project Member of The Noble Foundation’s Soil Renaissance project, and a Board Member of PA Farm Link. Moyer has been with the Rodale Institute for over 40 years.
Food Tank had the opportunity to talk with Jeff Moyer about organic farming and the future of agriculture.
Food Tank (FT): What is the No Till Roller Crimper and how has it changed farming?
Jeff Moyer (JM): The No Till Roller Crimper is used to terminate and suppress weed growth rather than using toxic chemicals. By doing so, farmers are able to delay termination by several weeks, increasing biomass production, resulting in greater nitrogen fixation, and accumulating more soil organic matter. This practice has allowed for farmers to integrate cover crops in their production systems, save money, and improve soil structure.
Research to determine which cover crops to grow with cash crops and having precise timing is crucial to the No Till Roller Crimper system. The concept can work for farms all around the world, but the timing is different in distant countries.
Although the No Till Roller Crimper has changed both conventional farming and organic farming, this tool allows for a faster process for farmers who wish to transition from conventional to organic production. At Rodale Institute, we encourage the reduction of tillage to improve soil health, and the No Till Roller Crimper has aided in that process.
FT: What are the biggest challenges organic farming faces?
JM: One of the biggest challenges organic farming faces is brand equity and trust in the marketplace. The consumer wants to be able to trust the background procedures of the organic food industry and assure their target in the improvement of personal and environmental health, not just the marketing of their brand. Consumers are paying for fair treatment of workers, animals, and land, not just the seal of organically certified.
It is important that the values beyond the production of the produce outweigh the value of the food product itself, a focus on soil health and the environment, rather than a larger yield. The overall goal is to feed the world for thousands of years, not just the present time. Through organic agriculture, this can be made possible, while continuing to focus on environmental concerns.
It is necessary for a shift in policy decisions for this to become a universal standard. Integrating stricter policy can lead to further research into scientific data of organic farming and the benefits thereof. For example, a cow can be fed organically, and be considered organic certified, but the treatment of this animal can be so inhumane, a person would not support the organic label itself.