Sunburst Community Practices Organic Growth through Farming

Sunburst Community is dedicated to promoting balance in your life. It was organized around spiritual living practices, and organic farming has always been a natural outgrowth of the core values. Sunburst was created as an inclusive organization that seeks to enhance each participant’s realization of the oneness of all life through service and devotion. In addition to providing instruction in yoga, meditation and conscious living, , Sunburst members farm more than 150 acres of certified organic land with grains, fruit orchards, vegetable row crops, and livestock. An apiary for beekeeping has also been set up.

Organic farming, according to Sunburst Community, is an essential step in regeneration and balance for our world. Earth only has so many resources and more than enough consumers; organic, or sustainable, farming is a method where Earth-friendly techniques are utilized to grow, harvest, and sell products. Members of Sunburst Community also operate five natural food marketplaces in Arizona and California.

Sustainable farming in the U.S. Southwest is slowly ramping up, as consumers understand the benefits of organically grown grains, fruits, vegetables, and livestock. The growing trend is reflected in the increasing acreage of certified organic land across the region. For example, in 1991, sales of certified organic produce grown in New Mexico only amounted to $5,000.  Twenty years later, New Mexico has more than $60 million in certified organic crops. Sunburst Community says this trend holds true for most states in the country.

Without USDA certification through the National Organic Program, a farm claiming to be organic is not able to label its yield as organically grown. NOP restrictions are pretty typical and easy to meet as long as growers are ready to face the challenges — and realize the benefits — when it comes to sustainable farming. For one, a farm undergoing the certification process cannot have any non-organic materials – harmful chemicals, genetically modified (GMO) seeds, etc. – applied to the land. Produce grown during the three-year transition period after conventional farming methods are no longer used is not considered organic.

Certified organic farms also cannot use any harmful pesticides, fertilizers, or other growing agents. Each year, USDA accredited inspectors go over organic farms to make sure they still meet the NOP requirements. A small tax is paid, and farms are set to go about their day. Sunburst Community says that sustainable farming is more than just growing organic products with minimal harm to the environment. At Sunburst, for instance, tours are open to elementary school field trips. This allows young people to get to know where their food is coming from and see how sustainable practices are possible.


Sunburst Community Sheds Light on Organic Benefits

No one has ever said growing organic is easier than pumping the ground full of pesticides and exposing farmers to dangerous chemicals. For one, organic farms have to utilize less-efficient, though just as effective methods for pest control. There is another major difference, however. Chemical farming has a lot more flexibility. Fertilizers can fight off droughts, infestations, and grow more per acre.  With organic farming, everything must be timed perfectly and there must be enough support from customers to stay operational.

Sunburst Community says the last point is becoming more of a reality. Approximately 11 percent of all farm products consumed in the United States are organic, meaning that there is more of a market for organic every year. Many respectable farms find local grocery stores to sell their products, thus allowing consumers to “know their farmer” and actually see that the farm is truly sustainable.

As mentioned, one of the most beneficial “side-effects” of organic farming is that farmers and families are not exposed to harmful chemicals. Field workers, tractor drivers, planters, and families on farms transmit pesticides through touch, breathing, clothing, and other methods. This health hazard may have enormous negative effects. Sunburst says few states require pesticide poisoning reporting, but from 1997 to 2000 in California there was an average of 475 cases reported each year.

Sunburst Community products are grown without harmful pesticides, meaning consumers are not exposed to them second hand. Because of this reason, organic foods are above and beyond “healthier” than their conventional counterparts. Organically grown foods are constantly undergoing study, because reports indicate that organics have more antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients lacking in conventional produce. In fact, the application of pesticides reduces phenolic content in a handful of fruits and vegetables. Phenolics are a plant’s natural safeguard against diseases and insects, and these harmful chemicals actively reduce natural phenolic counts. Pesticides have also been suspected to form xenoestrogens in the human body, implicated in many types of cancer.

Organics are also healthier for the entire farm and its surrounding area. Chemicals run off into streams and leech into watersheds; the only way to avoid these is to eat and grow organic foods. For more than 40 years, the dedicated organic farmers at Sunburst have realized the benefits of organic farming and how it is a community effort. Along with the 80 acres at Sunburst Community farm that are under full organic production, there is also a 2,000-acre ranch, Sunburst Sanctuary, where dry farming and animal husbandry are practiced, and a greenhouse operation is under development. A large portion of this land is has been set aside as a wildlife sanctuary, further demonstrating Sunburst’s dedication to Earth stewardship.