In Search of a Sustainable Future Barriers to Organic Food Production in the Rock River Basin
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Organic is fast becoming a buzzword on the lips of everyone from politicians and scientists to weekend grocery shoppers. Defining organic, however, is challenging without comparison to conventional production methods. In the field of agriculture, the federal government has taken steps to define and regulate the organic industry; yet this has not signaled a change in paradigm. In fact, conventional farming, including industrial and factory farming, is still the dominant form of agricultural production. In the state of Wisconsin, one of the most productive agricultural states in the union, organic agriculture is beginning to establish itself among the plethora of conventional farming and livestock operations. Yet the shear number of organic operations still dwindles in the state, especially in the Rock River Basin. This area encompasses the population triangle of Wisconsin, ranging from Madison to the outskirts of Milwaukee and the Fox River Valley, and includes some of the most fertile soils in the state. The natural richness of this tract of land has attracted many competing uses, including city-building, agriculture, recreation, and industry to name but a few. The interaction of these different forces, and their effect on the land itself, has created a specific geographic distribution of organic farming in the basin. Thus, different social and environmental factors have become barriers to, and generally explain the geographic distribution of, organic food production within the Rock River Basin.
Rock River Basin