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On returning to organic methods

Don Bustos in his fields at Santa Cruz Farm
Don Bustos in his fields at Santa Cruz Farm Photo: Lucy Duncan / AFSC

This is an excerpt from an interview with Don Bustos, program director with AFSC in New Mexico, about the farmer training program near Albuquerque. Please visit Acting in Faith to read more and comment. 

Lucy Duncan (LD): At some point you were using pesticides, and you stopped.

Don Bustos (DB): That's how our farm moved from conventional growing to certified organic. In the 1960s I was still a young lad, we were still farming naturally.

Then in 1967 an agricultural agent came by and gave my dad a bottle of liquid. I learned later that it was DDT. He mixed it with water. That year we had perfect corn, none of our corn had worms, we had a great crop. So my dad started to use it. That was the late 1960s until I started to take over in the late 70s and mid 80s. There was a period where my dad would use chemical fertilizers and insecticides, all approved by USDA and encouraged to be used. 

When my parents got older, I started to farm more, I had a small construction company. I would come on the weekends and help my dad and my mom on the farm, then I took over the farm and started to grow alfalfa. Then I started to go to farmers markets. In the1980s when the economy was real slow, I started to do more farming, I started to grow pumpkins and corn and stuff like that and I was still using seven dust. I was growing the best pumpkins in northern New Mexico and for six weeks I would go out and spread the seven dust—you put it on the plant for six weeks and it kills all the squash bugs. I'd go to the farmers markets in the morning, then I'd take a little nap, then in the evening I'd go out and do a little dusting. 

Then one evening, when my son was a one-year-old infant,  I went out and did my dusting. I came back in and was walking across the floor, and he started to roll after me, and I kind of imagined that dust coming off my pants leg, then him rolling in that dust. It dawned on me, I'm poisoning the bugs out there, I don't need to be poisoning my kids. I got that moment of clarity: that's not going to work. That's when I started to learn to grow organic and moved from a chemical based agricultural system to an organic system. We've been certified organic since the 1980s.

Read part III: No other way but equality and community

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