Opinion: MUHS articles very well-written

The Addison Independent dated Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014, contained two very well written stories from the Middlebury Union High School Journalism class. Both stories covered the topic of local milk in our local schools. One story highlighted our business, Monument Farms Dairy, and the fact that our milk, due to container size, is no longer allowed to be sold in schools, even at the a la carte windows. This is not a huge financial cut for us, but we do regret that local students will be unable to access our products on school grounds.
The second story dealt with a local organic milk producer who made the commitment to sell product in container sizes small enough to be allowed into schools. This story was also comprehensive and very well written. My only problem with this story is a single sentence/paragraph about half-way through the article which states, unequivocally, that “non-organic farms use hormones and nitrogen to boost milk production and crop yields.” This statement, while written innocently, does need correction.
I’m guessing that “hormones” refers to r-BST, also known as Bovine Growth Hormone, a hormone approved for use with dairy cows. By far, the vast majority of dairy farms do not use this hormone on their herds due to the fact that there are no fluid milk processors in the Northeast that will accept milk from herds treated with the hormone. Because Monument Farms was mentioned in this article as a non-organic producer, one could infer that Monument Farms must therefore use “hormones” to increase milk production. This has never been the case and never will be the case.
With regards the “nitrogen” mentioned in the above sentence, most people know that nitrogen is an absolutely essential plant nutrient. The claim that organic farms are differentiated from non-organic farms by the use, or non-use, of nitrogen with regards crop production is completely not true. The key is in the source of the nitrogen. Both types of farms utilize cow manure (usually from their own cows) to supply necessary nitrogen to the plants. This supplies a great deal of the needed nitrogen, but often does not supply sufficient amounts to maximize plant growth potential. Therefore, it is necessary to supplement the cow manure (fertilizer) with additional nitrogen. Organic farms often use chicken manure, for example, imported from other regions to fertilize their crops, while conventional farms often supply the additional nitrogen from chemical fertilizers, typically in the form of urea. Either way, nitrogen is certainly used by both types of producers, whether organic or non-organic.
Other than the above-mentioned points, the MUHS Journalism class produced two well-written, thoroughly researched articles and deserve a hearty congratulations.
Jon Rooney

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