While most large farms today use chemicals to control weeds and insects and to produce increased amounts of vegetables, milk, or eggs, some farmers have chosen to run their farms without chemicals. Organic farmers believe that the chemicals many farmers use can be damaging to the environment and to the people that eat the food grown on such farms. They feel that natural fertilizers and pest-control methods are just as effective and far healthier. British farmer and scientist named Albert Howard began the practice of organic farming as an alternative to modern chemical-based methods in the 1930s. His ideas have spread all over the world, taking hold in the United States in the late 1940s. A basic principle of organic farming is to focus on keeping the soil rich with nutrients by feeding it natural fertilizers like cow manure. Such fertile soil can help create stronger plants that are better able to resist disease and insects. Organic farmers also
prevent insect damage by putting up insect traps or by bringing in beneficial insects that feed on the harmful ones that are causing the problem. In extreme cases, they need to use pesticides, but to continue being certified as organic farmers in the United States, such farmers need to use botanical pesticides (those that are made from plants) rather than synthetic, or man-made, chemicals. Organic farmers also try to do more tasks using human power rather than gas powered vehicles, thereby using less fuel and cutting down on pollution. Organic farms that raise livestock like dairy cows or chickens feed the animals with natural food, avoiding chemicals and growth hormones that make cows produce more milk and chickens produce more eggs. Some organic farmers also allow their animals to roam in a large area (such animals are described as “free range”) rather than keeping them in small, climate-controlled pens for their entire lives. While organic farming began in a small way in experimental gardens and small, family-run farms it has grown into a huge industry. As more and more people looked for organically grown fruits and vegetables in their grocery stores, more and more companies began producing “certified organic” foods. At the beginning of the twenty first century, organic farming was a $7.7 billion-dollar-per-year industry in the United States a small but significant percentage of the entire food-selling industry.