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Trailer Talk's Frack Talk: Why Food and Fuel Shouldn't Mix -- A Farmer Speaks Out On the Dangers of Fracking

Farmer Greg Swartz talks about trying to maintain an organic farm in the face of increasing gas drilling in rural Pennsylvania.

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So, any potential surface spills could migrate right here, thereby compromising the life and soil.

You know, that is a key piece of this that we have to ... I mean, this goes into the larger issue of what organic farming is. Briefly, by having healthy soil, you grow healthy crops and healthy animals to give sustenance to humans. The quality and nutrient density of food is based on the quality and diversity of soil. Soil is a living organism. When you take a handful of soil -- pick up a handful of soil -- there are billions of organisms in that one handful. And the complexity of that, and diversity of that soil community is what creates the end product of a healthy plant.

So, that goes to how you farm, but it also goes to how the environmental impacts of any given activity are going to have implications on the ability to grow food and the quality of that food. So, it's big. It's big.

Now, there's another really big potential impact from gas drilling that is not often talked about. There's the immediacy of the possibility of contaminating an aquifer, or changing the way in which water flows underground to decrease the volume of water coming from an aquifer. There's the obvious contamination issues of a surface spill. But then we also really need to talk about what happens when you inject 5 to 7 million gallons of water, chemicals and sand under pressure underground with X percentage coming back out -- you know, that's the wastewater that gets then trucked away and "treated."

But then the other issue is, what about water that stays down there? What happens in the different strata of the earth over time? And I'm not talking about month; I'm not even talking about a year. What are the long-term implications of mixing the different strata as well as injecting these chemicals down there? That is a big, big issue, and, you know, as a measure of any human activity, when "sustainability" is this buzzword now ... Well, the best definition --and everyone that is listening to this has heard this a million times -- but the best definition, the best formula for measuring our activities, has to go back to the Iroquois formulation that says that, "Anything that I do shall have no adverse impacts seven generations forward."

SA: You're talking about being responsible to the land and to future generations, and you've committed your life to this as an organic farmer. And you would be considered a new generation of farmer, or a younger farmer who's coming into this business now. So, this is very relevant, because if we locally, regionally, and then nationally lose our farmland and we lose farmers and we lose a younger generation of farmer who wants to make this their life's work, we're in trouble, aren't we?

GS: Yeah. I mean, I am an extremely good example -- and I'm saying this with no exceedingly high opinion of myself -- but I'm an extremely good example of, first and foremost, strong long-term sustainable economic development. And secondly, an example of what the next generation of farmers are going to look like. I don't come from a farming background; I spent a lot of years learning the craft of farming from mentors and books and traveling and conferences, etc. And after spending all that time learning it, pulled the trigger and invested six figures -- big six figures of dollars into this operation in terms of not only buying the land, but also investing in all the equipment and infrastructure to make it happen.

 
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