A sign at Yoder's Natural Farm in Bloomfield, Iowa.

YouTube video
Part 1: Farming of a Different Kind
The beyond organic farming movement emerges in Iowa.

Part 2: Where Organic Joins the Mainstream
A behind the scenes view of how certified organic food ends up on grocery store shelves.

Part 3: Enforcing Organic Standards
An annual farm inspection brings to light flaws in organic enforcement.

Part 4: The Character and Conviction of Beyond Organic Farmers
The life of Iowan farmers immersed in beyond organic philosophy.

The farmers’ unshakeable belief in original organic principles piqued Schill’s interest. They said their methods took their farming “beyond organic,” which refers to methods and standards adherents felt were superior to federal standards followed by certified organic farmers.

“There was a tension within the organic movement that fascinated me and kept me interested thoroughout the life this project,” said Schill, now a freelance journalist and contributor to IowaWatch. “I felt I had found a unique story in this group of beyond organic farmers – a story about values and character. They gave me an opportunity to look at agriculture through alternative lens.”

Her work became her graduate school project at the University of Iowa, where she interned for IowaWatch. By the end of May 2011, IowaWatch had published a three-part,10,000-word series, including a hard-hitting investigative project that documented lax federal inspection standards and practices.

Since then, the National Organic Program drafted a rule for pesticide residue testing that would require certifying agencies to pay to test five percent of operations they certify annually. The proposed rule is in response to the 2010 audit outlined in the video.

Now Schill, who graduated in May, has turned her work into a 19-minute documentary, which begins today on IowaWatch and will run for four consecutive chapters through Thursday. Harvest Public Media published a story about her work with a link to the broadcast on Friday, and starting tomorrow at 1 p.m. on KCRG 9.2, a digital sub-channel, will begin airing it, and it will be carried on Mediacom Channel 109. It will air again on Nov. 21 at 2 p.m., Nov. 23 and Nov. 25 at 9 p.m.

– Stephen J. Berry, interim executive director-editor of IowaWatch.

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