Meet MOSES, and learn why our region has one of the strongest organic farming movements anywhere

Turns out, we're in ground zero of the organics movement.

Turns out, we're in ground zero of the organics movement. MOSES

It’s one of those events that had to have an interesting story behind it.

On October 23, experimental indie rock band Cloud Cult will appear at St. Paul’s Amsterdam Bar for an evening of music and organic food that benefits the Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES).

What exactly is MOSES? “We support farmers,” says account service coordinator Thomas Manley. “Our whole mission is to support organic farmers with resources so they can be successful with organic production.”

That includes publishing the Organic Broadcaster, a newspaper featuring stories important to the farming community; creating a comprehensive library of fact sheets about organic farming in English, Spanish, and Hmong; and staffing an organic specialist hotline. MOSES also hosts an annual Organic Farming Conference in La Crosse, Wisconsin, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary next year.

The MOSES Organic Farming Conference is kind of a big deal: According to Manley, it’s the largest organic conference in North America.

Why is such a high profile event held in La Crosse?

Manley explains that while California gets most of the credit, the Driftless Region (which includes southeastern Minnesota, southwestern Wisconsin, and portions of Iowa and Illinois) had just as many pioneering farmers in the organic movement, and just as early. In fact, Organic Valley, a farmer-owned co-op that distributes dairy and meat products to grocers nationwide, is headquartered nearby in La Farge, Wisconsin.

The Twin Cities’ foodshed includes the Driftless Region, and that brings us back to the Cloud Cult concert. Beginning October 23, the National Organic Coalition (NOC) and National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) will be holding their biannual meetings in St. Paul. There will be public comment periods to allow producers to voice their concerns, such as maintaining the integrity of the organic label in the face of double-digit growth and encouraging the USDA to strengthen standards. Based on that feedback, the NOSB will make recommendations to the USDA regarding organic policy.

“The larger organic community is coming to St. Paul, and we wanted to highlight for them and for the public how strong the organic community is here,” explains Manley. “We simply have one of the healthiest local and sustainable food cultures and communities around.”

While the Cloud Cult concert is already sold out, there are plenty of other ways to support organic farming. First and foremost, Manley encourages people to use their money to express their values. “Consumers are the reason organic has weight behind it,” he says. “If they’re buying food produced in an organic manner, there will be more people producing food in that manner. There’s value in supporting producers directly—CSAs and buying from a co-op—and supporting companies who invest in organic, sustainable, and regenerative practices.”

Because of course, when it comes to fixing our food system, there's still a lot of work to be done.

“We have to find a way to feed 9.5 billion people at the same time we are improving the ecology of the planet. That’s a tall order—it’s the challenge of our time. Everyone needs to engage in that effort or it won’t happen.”