Posted on October 1st, 2014 by Organic  |  No Comments »

Genetically Modified Organisms have become ubiquitous in American agriculture over the past decade. At least eighty percent, or more of all corn and soybeans grown in the US are now GMO. Many of these seed strains have genes inserted that make the crop tolerate herbicide application. The crops are touted by their makers as the answer to global hunger and starvation.

The producers of these seeds also manufacture the herbicides that these crops are engineered to tolerate while owning the seed companies that they are sold through. There has been so much consolidation in the seed industry that just four companies: Dow, Bayer, Syngenta, and Monsanto own or control the vast majority of the seed companies in the world. All indications are that these companies intend to control the world food supply. There is so much money involved that the USDA, FDA and politicians have been silenced.  Why is it that no anti-trust actions have been taken? It is disconcerting that these crops are approved on the fast track with little safety testing, despite significant public demand for closer scrutiny.

Claims of bumper yields have not been realized in the long term. In fact yields have declined recently as super weeds emerge that are resistant to glyphosate, (Roundup), leading to increased applications of the herbicide and the introduction of crops resistant to 2, 4 D, a much more potent herbicide. Remember “agent orange”?

The earliest clinical trials and more recent studies have shown GMO foods to cause health problems. Certainly, increased applications of herbicides cannot be a good thing for the environment. We already know how industrialized agriculture is affecting water quality: endocrine disruption in the Everglades and massive “dead zones” in the Gulf of Mexico. Native corn in the state of Oxaca, Mexico where corn originates from has shown the presence of trans-genes and the potential contamination of the entire corn genome. The chemical companies always claim their products are safe for you and the environment. How often has this proven not to be true? Remember DDT?

One of the biggest issues is that the companies that produce these organisms are not liable for the damage they may cause. Currently, if a farmer’s alfalfa unintentionally were to show the presence of trans-genes he could be sued by the producers of the genes for patent infringement. This scenario would be doubly damaging for certified GMO free and organic producers who would lose their ability to sell their crop as “organic” and GMO free. This is not only extremely unfair but it is un-American. The way the law is structured; there is no motivation for these companies to contain their Franken genes.

Fortunately, Colorado and other states have taken the first step in the fight against GMO foods by asking voters if they would like to know what is actually in the food they eat. Vote in November to LABEL GMO FOOD. Vote YES on 105!

The second step is to ban GMO crop production in Saguache County and eventually in the entire SLV. This would create a GMO Free Zone that is protected by geological formations from the intrusion of trans-genes. This step would provide protection for producers that wish to stay GMO free, (many countries ban the import of GMO commodities), as well as the significant number of organic producers in our valley. A GMO free zone could lead to a robust industry in GMO free seed production. Other producers, businesses and individuals that wish to locate in a “clean, protected” environment and among those who share their views on sustainability and environmental stewardship could bring economic growth to our area.

Join in a discussion of these issues Oct. 22 at 5:30 PM following the NSLVCR regular meeting at the Saguache County Road and Bridge headquarters. Do the GMO two-step!


Posted on January 14th, 2014 by Organic  |  No Comments »

There are new regulations being proposed by USDA APHIS concerning the ability of Bio-Tech crops and Organic or NON-GMO crops to “co-exist”. Post your own comment at Here is my comment:

GMO crops are inherently incompatible with Non-GMO and or Organically raised crops due to the possibility of contamination. As the law is now, a contaminated farmer would have a very difficult time receiving compensation for the lost market value and even perhaps the loss of Organic Certification for the crop or the acreage. Even worse, the owner of the GMO patent might sue the farmer for patent infringement. This system is unfair, unsustainable and un-American. I do not believe that this situation has not changed. From my perspective the huge Biotech companies have close to free range to ruin the genomes of basic food crops such as corn and soy, and are so powerful as to intimidate both the government and food producers into compliance with their wishes. This puts profit before people and real food safety. The USDA, EPA and FDA should be protecting us from these threats, not supporting fast track approval of one after the other of these very dangerous organisms.

If regulatory avenues are not working against these giants with the ability to lobby politicians into compliance with their wishes, then give the people the chance to decide with the food dollars they spend and LABEL GMO FOOD!


Posted on July 31st, 2013 by Organic  |  No Comments »

I recently asked a company selling chicken labeled “natural” if their supplier was feeding their birds GMO grains. The following is the response I received:

… it is widely believed that there is no non-gmo corn left in this country. Even all the organic corn out there is believed to be contaminated. If you watch the documentary Seeds of Death you will see that all the corn in the heart of Mexico is contaminated with the GMO gene. This area in Mexico was thought to be the last place in this hemisphere that was not contaminated and when they tested all the corn from the area it already was!

Here is my reply:

As you may know, Farmers who buy GMO seed from Monsanto or other chemical dealers do so because they wish to spray glyphosate (Roundup) on their soybean crop. Soy is typically used as a protein source in chicken feed. Using GMO soy as feed virtually ensures that the crop has been sprayed. Since weeds are becoming resistant to Roundup, the spray has to be more concentrated each time. The EPA just raised the acceptable levels of glyphosate residue on food crops. Weeds may soon be totally resistant to glyphosate and so Monsanto is trying to introduce 2-4D ready crops. This cycle illustrates how unsustainable and un-natural the chemical farming methods are.

While we know that GMO crop pollen may contaminate crops across the fence, farmers who are growing crops using non GMO and Organic seeds and production methods are doing their best to prevent contamination and are not spraying with glyphosate. The Non GMO Project certifies crops with less than .9% trace of GMO genes.

The European Union and Japan currently ban the import of GMO crops. They are not “naturally” grown and may contaminate local production and potentially cause health problems.

Labeling products such as meat as “natural” while knowingly feeding GMO feed is misleading and renders the term “natural” meaningless. Tyson calls their chicken “natural”. This practice is also a slap in the face to those who are truly attempting to grow and raise healthy natural food.

I would encourage ___ to change their practices to seek out farmers who use sustainable farming systems that protect the environment and the health of consumers. Until they do, your company might want to rethink which suppliers products you carry. It is a reflection on your own company values.


Sustainable Farming? Really?

Posted on February 14th, 2013 by Organic  |  1 Comment »

Baxter Black, Cowboy poet and author of a weekly syndicated column recently wrote a column (week of Feb. 7th) claiming Biotech companies such as Monsanto, Dow, Pfizer etc. saved the world from starvation by creating chemical alternatives to crop production and GMO crops. I disagree and here is my response:

Dear Mr. Black,

I usually enjoy reading your weekly column but occasionally you change horses so to speak and attack environmentalists, animal rights groups and now “sustainable farming” and though not mentioned specifically, but by association, “organic agriculture”. While many of your articles put a righteous human face on those that are in the business of raising this nation’s food, and give much respect and credence to the personalities the animals we raise certainly have, these few out of character articles attack those who in my opinion most represent the values and ideals you champion in your column.

The farmers and ranchers you vilify want to raise healthy food, make a profit, respect the animals they raise, and do it in such a way as not to destroy the land, water and wildlife they love.  Farmers were once told to plow from fence row to fence row.  Grow the same crop in succession. Pour the chemicals to it. Yields down? They have a new chemical for it. Who profited from these practices?

Not farmers apparently. Farming is not one of those valued and respected professions. The number of farmers continues to decrease as consolidation in the industry increases. The average age of a farmer is in the late 50’s. A cubicle looks pretty good to a young person compared to the rigors of farming vs. the returns.

Not the environment. Toxic chemicals continue to contaminate watersheds and aquifers, especially in agricultural areas. Cancer rates are shy high among agricultural workers.  Species of wildlife are disappearing at an unprecedented rate. Fisheries are dying off.  Weeds are becoming resistant to herbicides; bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics.  The globe is heating up, ice sheets are melting, ocean levels are rising, disasters of huge proportions are straining FEMA’s budget. Dependence on chemicals is similar to drug addiction; you always need a bigger fix.

Not commodity prices either. As the yields you show on the graph increase, the costs of inputs, fuel, labor and machinery also skyrocket while the price for a bushel of grain has not increased proportionately.  My grandfather used to make a good living on 120 acres. Now 600 acres is not enough ground to support a family growing corn and soy. It was you that lamented in a recent column how many more steers it took to buy a new pick-up truck than it did back in the day.

The farmer that looks beyond today, that rotates his crops, that leaves stubble on the ground to prevent wind and water erosion, that increases the soils tilth, sequestering carbon, increasing the soils capacity to absorb water and allowing roots to penetrate deeply, whose soils are not as subject to erosion, that have a healthy population of earthworms and beneficial organisms, that have healthy populations of beneficial insects to naturally combat pests and weed populations are controlled by healthy stands of mixed species of beneficial plants, those are the “sustainable” farmers.  Honey bees can actually survive on a “sustainable farm”.

I do not believe that new chemicals and technology that move away from natural systems are the answer to feeding the world. I do not believe that in the 3rd world it is sustainable to teach and subsidize farming methods that are totally reliant on chemical inputs.  If 50% of the money spent on researching a chemical alternatives to food production was spent researching sustainable agriculture, I believe equal progress would be made toward sustainable solutions.

Organic food consumption continues to grow and now many universities are teaching sustainable methods in conventional agriculture. You cannot foul your own nest and expect to raise healthy young. I think you are riding a Shetland in the Kentucky Derby on this issue. Do you have any corporate sponsors?

Thomas D. McCracken

Angry Consumers Deluge Kashi

Posted on May 7th, 2012 by Organic  |  No Comments »

Cornucopia, WI – A photo of a sign explaining why Kashi cereal products were pulled from the shelves of a natural foods retailer has sparked an angry consumer backlash aimed at Kashi for its use of suspect cereal ingredients.


The sign appeared in the aisles of the Green Grocer, based in Portsmouth, R.I. Owner John Wood read a report from The Cornucopia Institute, Cereal Crimes, that detailed the use of GMO grains and the presence of pesticide residues found on conventional grains that were then packaged as “natural” cereals for sale to health-conscious consumers. Kashi, one of the nation’s leading “natural” brands, owned by Kellogg, was one of the brands featured in the report. Wood pulled other cereal brands for similar concerns about product ingredients and had placed similar signs on the shelves explaining the action.


Last week images of the Kashi sign went viral on the web. Angry consumers began calling and writing Kashi, and posting comments on the company’s Facebook page expressing their outrage at being misled by the company’s marketing spin.


A Kashi consumer affairs employee, Rick Duran, told Cornucopia that “no actual testing” of their cereal products had been performed. Kashi mimicked this analysis in an online video posted that same afternoon on the Kashi Facebook page and called Cornucopia’s information “scientifically inaccurate and misleading because it was not based on actual testing of Kashi products.”


“This characterization of our work by Kashi is blatantly false,” said Will Fantle, Cornucopia’s Research Director. “We purchased a readily available box of Kashi’s GoLean® cereal from a Whole Foods store. We then sent a sample to an accredited national lab for testing, finding that the soy in the natural cereal was 100% GMO.”


The Kashi video also suggested, disingenuously, that any genetically engineered contamination in their food was from incidental sources rather than crops intentionally grown from GMO seed.”


“This is classic public relations spin and crisis communications work, where corporations use misinformation to try to cover their tracks,” said Rebekah Wilce, of the Center for Media and Democracy/PRWatch.


Reflecting on the firestorm sparked by his store’s signage, Wood says: “I sincerely hope that whatever comes from this that it will serve to continue the thoughtful discussion on our food supply and the problems with the use of GMOs.”

SLV Irrigation Season

Posted on March 19th, 2012 by Organic  |  1 Comment »

The irrigation season policy of the Division Engineer of water division 3 enacted in the spring of 2010 as it pertains to surface water users on Saguache Creek is not based in Colorado water law as it has historically been administered.

            Letters recently published in valley newspapers have sufficiently documented the injury done to surface water users by the continued decline of the aquifer to historically low levels. To my knowledge there have been no curtailments of groundwater diversions to date. The creation of irrigation sub-districts is eventually intended to address the issue of pumping from the aquifer by those that have no means with which to replace that water. The irrigation season is also meant to address the issue of the declining water table.

            The new policy inappropriately and perhaps illegally treats surface water users the same as groundwater users. Ranches and farms with deeded water rights which have been historically decreed since the late 1800’s are now on the same playing field as farmers that drilled wells recently. It has been proven for some time now that those wells are drying up springs, creeks and ditches that ranchers and others absolutely rely on for their livelihood.

            On what precedent are surface water users treated the same as ground water users? Why when the aquifer dropped below normal levels were ground water users not told to reduce usage? Surface water is administered through the policy of first in use, first in priority. When the creek flow drops, water is cut off to those with less senior rights, but not those with wells. They are allowed to pump until the well goes dry and then they can deepen the well.

            Using this new policy Division Engineer adds insult to injury by reducing the number of days a surface user can irrigate. When your crops need water (and when do native grass or alfalfa not need water?) you must wait for a government employee to decide when you can turn on your ditch.  How is this not a covert move to appropriate more of the surface water to the benefit of well users?

            The government has taken water that belongs to those that own it by deed and put it in the aquifer for the benefit of those that divert the same water out of priority. This appears to be a desperate move to stabilize the aquifer without curtailing groundwater diversions. This policy directly impacts surface water ownership without compensation.

            There is no difference between this policy and the government deciding to put a freeway through your farm, which is called “eminent domain”. In my opinion if the government is going to take our water, they owe us for it. Every acre foot that surface users would have historically put on crops, that we now cannot due to this policy is money they are taking out of our pockets and they owe us for it! 

Ditch systems in the valley that have compact obligations; should administer their water according to policies that will allow for the obligations to be met and each should be able to decide how best to do this.  Saguache Creek has no compact obligations. There is no way a “one size fits all” policy can be justly applied to all San Luis Valley irrigators.

            Over the past decade or so we have seen how the staffs of local government agencies have been reduced. How long might it be before we call our local water administrator and find that office is now in Alamosa, or even in Denver. Bureaucrats cannot know the complexities of land and crops like those whose economic survival depend on them. Those of us who live here know it could snow 3 feet in La Jara and not a flake in Saguache. Now under the new policy if my farm needs water prior to the arbitrary date set by valley wide policy, I must be a supplicant and plead for the water I rightly own.

            The 14th amendment allows the government to take private property, but also guarantees just compensation AT THE TIME THE PROPERTY IS TAKEN.

After many years of economic injury surface water users are in the weakest financial position to defend themselves against the government behemoth. But the law is clear, we must eventually be compensated with interest! Perhaps an aspiring attorney will take up our cause in the near future.

Buy Local

Posted on January 11th, 2012 by Organic  |  No Comments »

It is of utmost importance that local folks purchase
local products whenever possible, whether it is food or furniture, hardware or
micro-brews. It will always be cheaper to mass produce. But mass production always comes at a cost,
whether it is to human health, the environment, wildlife or jobs. The only hope
a small farmer or shop owner has is to be able to sell his product locally.

If people do not recognize that it is worth more to have
a local farmer who can be trusted to grow food in a way that is sustainable,
then the food will be produced far away and on mega plots of land. Food
produced in this way is vulnerable to disruptions in supply due to fuel cost,
infestations, international trade disputes, contamination and even terrorism,
not to mention the loss of nutritional value. Politicians will never be
convinced to vote for local food production because their election depends on
money from corporations. Look at Obama’s support of Monsanto, change we
believed in. He just approved the unlimited use of two new GMO crops that will
increase the use of the toxic herbicide 2-4D, also known as Agent Orange.

The only vote people have is with the dollars they

Sample Pack On Sale

Posted on November 30th, 2011 by Organic  |  No Comments »

Just in time for “cyber week” we are offering our sample pack, with the addition of our new product Lotus Lotion, with free shipping. (A savings of $6.00) Included an as extra bonus is a coupon for 10% off on any A’Terra product. This is a great time for you, your friends and loved ones to try our great products. You will not find products of this high quality, at this low price anywhere! Thank you for supporting Organic Agriculture.

CSA Pick up and Delivery

Posted on May 31st, 2011 by Organic  |  No Comments »

CSA boxes will be available for pick up on Thurdays at the farm by 4:00 PM. Delivery to Crestone will be Thursdays at 2:00PM at Elephant Cloud. No deliveries to other areas are available. Pro-Rated memberships will still be available throught the season.

GMO Free Zone

Posted on April 25th, 2011 by Organic  |  1 Comment »

Open letter to the Saguache County Commissioners:

Friends, As you may have heard, the federal government has approved the use of Genetically Modified
Alfalfa in the USA with no restrictions. It appears the USDA has caved in to corporate pressure
from the likes of Monsanto who will profit from the sale of these seeds as well
as from the sale of the herbicide Roundup. This transpired despite overwhelming
public comment against the approval of a crop that has the ability to cross
pollinate with non-GMO alfalfa over large distances potentially contaminating
farmers crops. It is possible that these modified genes could spread across the
entire country, virtually eliminating organic and non-GMO farming of alfalfa,
the countries 4th largest crop. Alfalfa, unlike other GMO crops
grows wild in ditches and roadsides enabling the mutant genes to spread

What many do not know is that in a lawsuit claiming damages due to GMO contamination the
burden of proof is on the farmer (claimant), making compensation much harder to
obtain and for most, financially impossible. Monsanto and other large
corporations are standing behind those that use their products in lawsuits
around the world. Family farmers have no chance against the bio-tech behemoths.

Another disturbing trend is that many weeds are becoming resistant to Roundup, causing
producers to use more of this herbicide and eventually resorting to other more
harmful chemicals. Current studies indicate that 11 million acres in the USA are showing
resistance to Roundup. In Roundup Ready corn, producers are finding that the
plants do not have the resistance that the older varieties had to other problems
such as insects & pathogens. Alarmingly, GMO pollen may be contributing to
a decline in the bee population that we all depend on for the production of most
fruits, nuts and other foods. Why are we taking this risk?

While the First Lady grows an organic garden on the grounds of the White House, her
husband’s administration approves GMO crops for mass consumption. I understand
that the First Family eats organic food on a regular basis. Do they know
something the general public should know?

What can be done? I think that the San Luis Valley
could be a safe haven for non-GMO crops creating a significant marketing niche
for farmers here. Our mountainous ecosystem provides a barrier to contamination
from GMO crops in the lowlands. This could allow us to produce clean alfalfa
for sale to organic dairies around the country. It’s also likely that
conventional milk producers will eventually choose to offer products that claim
to be GMO free, just as they have with Bovine Growth Hormone and antibiotics.

Additionally, the San Luis Valley could be a source for clean seed for organic producers who may not be able to
find seeds that meets organic production standards due to GMO contamination.

It is likely that some in the valley might want to plant the new GMO alfalfa seed. However,
this valley is home to a large community of organic farmers who could lose
their livelihood if their crops become contaminated with GM alfalfa. I propose
that the Saguache County Commissioners declare the county GMO
free. Then take it another step, approaching the other counties in the valley
to join us.  This has the potential to be
a significant economic boost for the valley well worth considering.

I am interested in what others think. Contact me at:


Thomas D. McCracken