Oklahoma’s 1st organic farm: How to weather changing times

Great State

FAIRVIEW, Okla. (KFOR) — This year’s crop of winter wheat is coming along well thanks to good rains at the right time.

The spring calves are healthy as is the rest of the Gosney herd.

“These are just some big heifers,” says John Gosney who checks on them every day.

Whatever he feeds them comes off this ranch.

“I’m still trying to figure out how to farm,” he chuckles.

Look around these two picturesque northwest Oklahoma farms and there’s a comfort in knowing both of them are with their original families.

John’s great-grandparents helped open the Cherokee Strip in 1893 just as John’s wife Kris’s did.

Farming is in their blood.

Negotiating who will talk to their visitor is a more complicated task.

“You’re looking at me and I’m looking at you,” says John looking at Kris.

Kris jokingly responds, “Well you made the smart comment I talked all the time so I thought I’d give you a chance.”

But it’s beneath the surface of green crops and cattle hooves that you might find a difference in how the Gosneys operate their Centennial Farm.

It all started back in the mid-90’s when a neighbor offered to rent them his land if they would consider farming it organically.

John recalls, “My first reaction was to say I didn’t know anything about organic farming and wasn’t interested.”

Kris adds, “When we were asked to to that it was a rather unusual time in our lives anyway. The economics of farming were certainly ‘in the ditch’.”

It took several years to complete the transformation, doing away with the herbicides, pesticides, and the commercial fertilizers.

They had to grown their own organic cattle feed as well.

They both insist, now, that it was always interesting work.

“It was a big challenge. It made me think, and I enjoyed that challenge,” says John.

John and Kris have a grandson on the place this spring and summer.

On the day we visited they had him out with the cultivator on a plot their resting this season.

It’s been a long time since they switched, so long that records show they were the first farm in Oklahoma to be certified ‘organic’ by the USDA.

It’s not just farm to market any more either.

Kim is a marketer herself, selling their beef online, and, for the very first time this spring, organizing self-guided tours of their operation.

Modern consumer like to know where their food comes from.

Kris says, “If they can identify the source they feel more secure.”

Truth be told, what John and Kris are doing isn’t so different from what their great-grandparents did in the late 1800s.

They were organic farmers too.

Both generations learned to adjust when the world around them changed.

Keeping their name on the deed was always worth the effort.

The Gosney Family sells and delivers there own organic beef.

They also sell organic wheat and legumes.

For more information including how to conduct your own driving tour, click here.

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