The Natural Farmer (TNF) “covers news of the organic movement nationally and internationally, as well as featuring stories about farmers from New England, New York, and New Jersey. Each issue contains a 16 to 24 page pull out supplement on a particular crop or topic. The paper also contains how-to-do-it articles suitable for gardeners and homesteaders.” For years, our NOFA membership has included a subscription to this quarterly newspaper.
The most recent issue of TNF, Winter 2020-2021, features a pullout section titled “Special Supplement on Who Owns Science?”. This section includes articles regarding the agrochemical industry, genetically modified crops, new research methods, and data on testing for nutrients in fruits and vegetables; all of which you might expect to find within the pages of TNF. In addition to these, there are a few articles in this section with censorship and vaccine-related content. These articles do not directly address connections to organic farming or food, or perspectives of farmers, gardeners, landcare or food professionals. With this in mind, the NOFA Interstate Council released a statement (see below) in response to this latest publication.
No doubt growers, eaters, and readers have all been impacted by COVID-19, and there are likely more challenges ahead. For us at CT NOFA, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of our commitment to supporting and advocating for the essential work of our community of organic growers, producers, and stewards. We are proud to work with you all, and we are inspired to see how so many of you have responded to this crisis over the past year.
Steve Munno, CT NOFA Board President
A Message from the NOFA Interstate Council Regarding the Latest Issue of The Natural Farmer:
Greetings during this holiday season, and happy Winter Solstice!
Many of you will have already received the Winter 2020-2021 issue of The Natural Farmer; for those who have not, it should soon arrive in your mailboxes. After discussion, we, the members of the NOFA Interstate Council, are writing to the NOFA membership to provide some context and response regarding the content of Section B, titled “Special Supplement on Who Owns Science?”.
As background, The Interstate Council provides coordination between the chapters and acts as an umbrella organization for projects of collective interest to NOFA chapters. In addition, it is the publisher of The Natural Farmer. The longtime editor of TNF, Jack Kittredge, has given much effort and many years of service to the NOFA community, and this Winter issue is his last as he has been planning to retire. We wish him well in his retirement and thank him for 32 years of service as editor for the paper.
Our concerns about the supplement are that the vaccine-related content does not provide enough context or a sufficiently broad spectrum of viewpoints to inform our readership on what is clearly a topic of immediate and national concern. That some of the information derives from sources that stand against some of our most deeply held values is additionally problematic.
Independent of whether the topic of vaccines even belongs in our farming-centered publication (a decision made for this issue, as for every previous one, independently by the editor), we feel that the only responsible way to have included such a topic would be to include vigorous comments from voices in mainstream public health to offer an alternative point of view. We deeply regret that was not done.
Going forward, we will develop a more thorough process for editorial review which will advise and support the incoming editor. Interviews for the new editor are happening now, and we will keep our community informed of this process.
Thank you for your understanding. Please stay safe.
The NOFA Interstate Council
MA, RI, NJ, NH, NY, VT, CT