On September 11th, The Organic Trade Association honored Israel Morales Sr. from JV Farms Organic with the Organic Farmer of the Year Award.
Israel Morales Sr. is JV Farms Organic’s lead grower with over 40 years of farming experience.
Israel has extensive experience not just in knowing what produce matches the type of soil but is also a master of soil health. He has a direct influence on the growing practices on all of the acres in his operation.
Some describe him as living and breathing organic farming. He has both an old-school mentality on how to grow organically with a flair for innovation.
Israel is a successful large-scale organic farmer, known as a steward of the land. He minimizes disturbance and maximizes soil cover, biodiversity, and the presence of living roots.
His focus is soil health, habitat diversity and reducing or eliminating organic pesticide use if he can. Israel has developed an innovative farming system using conservation tillage beds that allows him to use cover crops on 80 to 90 percent of his acreage during the winter fallow.
Israel accepted the award surrounded by his family and over 250 attendees who had come to honor him.
In his touching acceptance speech, he told the crowd,
“I appreciate this honor the Organic Trade Association has given me.
I want to thank all the people that helped me to go organic. I want to thank all my bosses, who helped me learn and share organic principles.
I thank my family, my kids, my daughters, my grandkids and my great-grandchildren. Those are the kids who hold the future—we have to do this for the kids.
I had a lot of phone calls before I left Salinas, and everyone said ‘congratulations, you deserve this.’ I told them, no, it’s everybody that works on organic who does.
When we started out a long time ago—more than 30 years ago, I was farming 800 conventional acres, and the biggest organic crop was 1 acre, most were half of a quarter acre.
Today there are thousands and thousands of organic acres!
We had to discover what we needed to do.
We started out with small broccoli full of aphids, and now organic broccoli is beautiful and clean.
So, we learned the system of organic. When our company was sold, I was farming 5500 organic acres and 2500 conventional.
It’s beautiful to grow organic, and I think the people who are looking for flavor will find that in organic.
Why, because we are using the resources. It’s so important to use the resources we have.
We aren’t inventing anything—everything is already here; we just have to put it all together and respect them.
One of the resources we have is the ecological system or the microbes—just don’t kill them! They’re a great resource, and they are right here.
Give them your friendship—so you have to change the way you farm to be in harmony.
When I started out, I was buying ladybugs—all kinds of stuff—and then I noticed everything was right there- just don’t kill them.
Another resource is water. There are a lot of places short of water, and we put more nutrients in the water than we need to.
We can save fuel—we want to have fuel to run tractors, so our great-great grandchildren can farm.
We need to save and take care of all the resources we have, and we can do that in a sustainable way. Organic farming is a very important way to do that.
I’m 74, and some people ask me when I will retire, and I say, ‘I will retire when nobody wants to learn. But if there is one person who wants to learn, I will teach them!’
There is so much to speak about, but when I look at my wife, she says enough—so I guess we all have a boss.”
Israel Morales thanked everyone before leaving the stage, award in hand.
The organic community is richer because of him.