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By: Patrick Lillard, Purdue University

Whether or not we like it, we all have relationships with those plants we call “weeds.” Farmers can use some colourful language to describe these persistent companions. I had the chance this past summer to hear what organic farmers think about weeds as I toured six organic farms in different parts of the country for a project I have been working on for Purdue and Ohio State universities.

At each farm, I asked the farmers how they’d describe their relationship with weeds. I got a few strange looks, quite a few laughs, and a word I had to look up after the interview. (Now I know what “peripatetic” means). Still, almost everyone noted something we all can learn from weeds.

“Actually, we do learn a lot from weeds,” said Dave Campbell of Lily Lake Organic Farm in Illinois. “It’s hard to believe just a matter of 40 acres away in another field, I’ll have different weed pressures than I will in another part of the farm. So I look at weeds and try to observe what kind of weeds I have, what the issue is, and why I’m having these weeds and try to address that issue.”

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