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Organic vs. Conventional Farming: What’s the Same, What’s Different?

Organic versus conventional farming – it’s a highly debated topic. As a farmer who has employed both methods, perhaps I can offer a valuable point of view to help you make the most informed choice for you and your family.

What do “organically grown” and “conventionally grown” mean?

“Organic” and “conventional” are different approaches to farming. So, foods (crops and livestock) that are “organically grown or raised” must follow regulations developed by the USDA National Organic Program. On the other hand, conventional farmers have a wider array of options to help promote growth and overcome disease.

What’s the same?


There are pesticides approved for use in both types of farming. Farmers use these to protect their crops from bugs and diseases. When crops are protected, they can improve yields and ensure that the product you buy at the grocery store is in its best condition.

Soil health

Farmers use a variety of tools and practices to maintain soil and water health on farms of every shape and size, such as reducing soil tillage or planting cover crops.


Protecting soil and other resources is important to all farm families. In fact, 96% of farms in Illinois are owned by families. Their passion for farming sustainably is driven by the desire to pass their farms down to the next generation. The tools farmers can use vary slightly between conventional and organic, but the desired result is the same.

Farmers care

We all care about growing safe food for our families and preserving our land for years to come.


Whether or not you’re reaching for an “organic” label at the store, the food you’re eating is safe. Furthermore, research shows very little difference between the nutritional value of organic and conventionally grown foods.

What’s different?


While there are approved pesticides for use in both types of farming, pesticides used on organic farms must be naturally derived whereas conventional farms can use synthetic pesticides.


Genetically modified crops are not allowed in organic farming. GMOs can be grown in our conventional fields and help us avoid using pesticides among other benefits.


Organic farmers don’t use antibiotics. Conventional farmers that do use antibiotics are required to track how and when they’re used so they can be sure the medicines remain out of the food supply.  


But you already knew that. Generally speaking, certified organic food costs more.

So, yes, there are some differences between conventional and organic farming, but there isn’t necessarily a “right” and a “wrong” way to farm. It all comes down to what is best for each individual farmer and their land. In my case, I’m comfortable growing both and I feed both to my family. I’m making what I believe are the best choices and I encourage you to do the same.

Trent Sanderson

About Trent

Trent believes that by taking better care of the land, he can take better care of his animals. Whether he’s growing corn as a high-energy feed source for his cattle or thoughtfully managing pasture rotation for grazing, Trent is bringing new ideas and thinking to their multi-generation farm and is literally growing crops and livestock from the ground up.

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