MORO, Ore. — A fight pitting organic against commercial farms in the Columbia River Gorge is gaining national attention.
At the center of the fight is Azure Standard, a 2,000-acre wheat farm in Moro. CEO David Stelzer, posted a now-viral message on Azure’s Facebook page saying Sherman County officials would spray Azure Standard with chemicals. A move he said would kill the farm’s certified organic status.
“It’s important that we’re not poisoning our soils and certainly that we give people the choice,” said Stelzer. “Because of our organic status, a certain amount of weeds end up going to seed or growing in our fields because we don’t use toxic herbicides to kill them.”
Neighbors said the problem with that was those weeds have been traveling to their property.
“It’s gotten out of hand,” said neighboring farmer Bryan Cranston.
Cranston said he’s been patient as multiple noxious weeds have come onto his property from Azure. Now, he said, the weeds are threatening his livelihood.
“I grow certified seed wheat and if it keeps going like it is, I’m going to lose my certification for my seed wheat.”
The plight drew hundreds to Sherman County Court Wednesday evening, which was held in a high school gym. Many wanted to see the county uphold an ordinance in place for weed violations like those leveled on Azure Standard. An ordinance that would allow for weeds to be chemically treated.
“It does say that the county has the right to [spray],” said Sherman County Commissioner, Joe Dabulskis. “Do we want to? No. Do we plan to? No.”
Instead, Dabulskis said they’re going to give Azure Standard another chance. He said they’ve worked on a plan with Azure to get rid of the weeds organically and will have the state review it and seek expert advice from Oregon State University.
“Nobody here cares if there’s weeds on Azure farm,” said Dabulskis. “Just don’t let them blow across to the road onto the neighbors.”
Stelzer said he’s grateful to avoid the chemicals.
“It’s going to take three years after that to re-certify organic,” said Stelzer. “By that time, all my markets are gone.”
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