We had the pleasure of meeting organic farming pioneer, Mike Heath, on our “Locavore Tour” to Hagerman, Idaho. We did record video footage of his farm, but our camera decided to malfunction and the quality is not worth posting.
Sharing what we learned about Mike Heath and what sustainable crops he is growing, well, that IS worth posting!
Mike Heath, Idaho Farmer
You might have heard of Mike Heath before, not only because he is involved in many facets of sustainable farming in Idaho, but because he is featured as the organic potato farmer in Michael Pollen’s, “Botany of Desire” (also available through Netflix).
How Mike grows his crops does deserve national attention, especially considering that most farmers in Idaho did start planting Monsanto’s Bt potato, branded as the “New Leaf” potato, when they hit the market in 1997. Fortunately for us, “New Leaf” was taken off the market in 2001 and Mike never planted one “New Leaf” seed. He stayed true to organic, non-GMO farming.
Mike doesn’t just grow over 16 varieties of potato. He also grows organic alfalfa, corn, barley, wheat, dry beans, vegetables (including 13 varieties of tomatoes and peppers), and raises pigs and cattle, over 300 broiler chickens, and 90 laying hens. To top it off he sells his organic alfalfa and self made, non-GMO chicken feed to Idaho farmers, including Golden Egg Farm in Hagerman, Idaho.
M & M Idaho Farm Stands Out
Mike Heath is one Idaho farmer that has got it going on, to say the least! And his crops stick out like a sore thumb. When you look at his potato fields, for example, there are marvelous colors of purple, white, yellow and deep green. When you look at a conventional potato field you see….dry, boring monocultures!
Mike and I had an expensive conversation about the introduction of GMO alfalfa (read more here) and his concern over the approval of this crop. Mike made a great point, alfalfa doesn’t even NEED herbicide and he has never has a major problem with weeds in his own alfalfa crop. It’s a mystery as to why Monsanto created GMO alfalfa in the first place, or is it? Our only conclusion is that for Monsanto, GMO alfalfa is a cash cow.
GMO Free Alfalfa
I asked Mike if he was concerned about his alfalfa becoming contaminated. Lucky for us, Mike is one of the only farmers growing alfalfa is his area and we didn’t see one GMO alfalfa field as we drove around looking at his crops. We did however see acres and acres of GMO corn. As you might have heard, Idaho now grows more corn than it does potatoes. I suppose we are no longer the potato state!
I asked Mike how his methods of planting several different varieties has benefited him. He explained that by growing several different varieties he is able to maintain weeds and pests easier. If one varieties gets diseased or infested, the other varieties are less likely to suffer. And because of his organic methods and the high quality of his soil, there aren’t many pests and weeds in the first place. In addition, who doesn’t like a little variety! Mike, who works to preserve heirloom varieties, is protecting the biodiversity of our seed supply while companies like Monsanto work to destroy it.
When we got back to the farm after admiring each crop we saw, we said hello to the chickens. Like I mentioned, Mike makes his own feed from the crops he raises and mixes it to use and sell. The chickens on his farm were happily pecking at their organic feed. Clearly they like a good non-GMO dinner just as much as we do!
Seeing Mike’s farm was an inspiration to us all. In the midst of all the madness, there is a man who has been cultivating organic crops for over 25 years and doing a damn good job at it. Most farmers jumped this ship at the introduction of the green revolution, yet Mike stuck with it because he saw results that were good for him, consumers, and his community.
And his hard work is paying off. M & M Heath Farm sends wheat to Eugene and squash and potatoes to California. He sells to Idaho Bounty, which then puts his produce, grain, and eggs in the hands of consumers across southern and southwest Idaho. He sells to the Boise Co-Op and attends the Twin Falls, Hailey and Ketchum Farmers Market.
Buy local, when you purchase your dry beans Idaho, most likely they came from Idaho farmer, Mike Heath. Let’s give Mike another great 25 years!
Big thanks to Mike for inviting us into his home and sharing his story with us. We’ll see you at the market!