Did you know organic, conventional and GMO produce are all grown similarly? You can even grow them on the same farm! How is this possible?

In this video, created in partnership with Food52, we explore Terranova Ranch in the heart of California’s San Joaquin Valley. This part of the U.S. is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world, but it’s also facing a serious drought to which this farmer has responded by implementing projects that embrace sustainability.  

Don Cameron, the farm’s general manager, gives a tour of his grape, tomato, and bell pepper fields, and also his almond orchard – showing just some of the 25 different types of produce growing in coexistence at Terranova Ranch. 

Don’s farm demonstrates it’s possible to grow organic, conventional and GMO crops at the same time. For example, he grows both conventional and organic tomatoes, and also GMO corn – which the farm had just finished harvesting before we visited.  He’s also grown GMO alfalfa in prior seasons.

“We started growing GMO crops because we could use less herbicides and less insecticides,” Don explains. “One of the misconceptions is that GMOs are harmful to the environment. As a grower, I know there’s immense safety in growing GMO crops. Farmers need to do a better job getting our message out.”

Don points out that growing organic tomatoes is more complicated than growing conventional ones, as they have less yield. At the beginning of the growing season, the farm actually applies chicken or cow manure to all fields – organic, conventional and GMO – to boost nitrogen, phosphate and potassium soil levels. 

The farm has also taken new steps to conserve water and energy, and reduce the overall environmental footprint. “We changed over all of the sprinkler heads last year to high efficiency sprinklers that are more uniform, require less power, and just apply exactly what we need,” Don explains. He uses drip irrigation wherever possible (such as on his tomato crops) to make the most of the available water. The farm is also starting work on a comprehensive groundwater recharge project to build back up the supply of underground water that has been diminished during the drought. “We also changed over all of our tractors to clean burning diesel engines,” Don shares.

In addition to produce, Don shows us his on-site, one megawatt solar facility that generates enough electricity to power a third of the farm’s pumps and wells that deliver carefully measured water to thirsty crops.

This video is part of a series that USFRA created in partnership with Food52. We traveled across the U.S. to take an inside look into a variety of farms and ranches to bring answers to the many questions consumers have about the food we eat and how it’s grown and raised.

Visit Food52.com to learn more about our partnership.