“This is really not my forte,” Jayson Werth told the Organic Trade Association’s 2017 Policy Conference Wednesday afternoon in downtown D.C. “I’d actually feel more comfortable facing Mariano Rivera in the World Series than standing up here right now. And I haven’t got any hits off that guy, ever.”
Werth then launched into his keynote address to the group, a speech that touched on his diet, his lifestyle, his entree into the world of organic farming, his challenges in turning his Illinois farm into a sustainable and profitable enterprise, and his goal to throw himself into even larger-scale organic farming and consulting after his baseball career is over.
“When I started this thing, I didn’t really know what I was doing,” he told the crowd, speaking of his organic enterprise. “I wasn’t planning on anything. It just happened, organically. … I thought we were just gonna have a nice place for the animals and for us to hang out, and here we are nine years later. So as time goes on and my career winds down, I think I’ll have more opportunities, and I kind of see myself headed in this direction in my next life. But hopefully that’s not too soon. I think I’ve got a few good years in me. And this is my last season in Washington potentially — I’ll be a free agent after this year, and I’m looking to still play every day. So in the meantime, I’m focused on baseball. But long-term, this is where I’m gonna put my attention and put my energy.”
“This” being his organic farming in Illinois, which maybe I should have known about, but I’m not convinced I did. Werth, needless to say, sure seemed to win over the organic policy crowd, leading to an invitation for him to join the group during its Thursday lobbying trip to Capitol Hill.
“We play every day,” he said, apologetically. “I would love to, actually, but we play at 4.” (The Nats game was later moved up to just after noon, but Werth also told the crowd that he might have chores to do at his extensive home organic garden, so he wasn’t sure if he could make it.)
Werth was introduced as “a man that is part of the solution — in the batter’s box, in left field, on the organic farm and throughout his community,” but most of his talk was descriptive rather than prescriptive. He talked about his struggles with health and durability early in his career, how he was looking for an edge, how his wife had her eyes opened about nutrition during a college course. Ten years ago, he told the crowd, “we eliminated gluten and dairy entirely from our lives and tried to stay away from no-organic food and GMOs as much as possible. Once I started eating clean and as much organic produce and grass-fed meat as possible, my career started to take off.”
And so when he purchased 280 acres in central Illinois, he told the crowd, “my dream was to have a farm that matched my philosophy on food and diet. I didn’t want toxic chemicals on my property and my crops, and I still don’t want toxic chemicals on my or my family’s food.”
But his family, he said, was “totally clueless” about farming, knowing only that they wanted to be organic. And so they navigated a world of red tape and regulations, of organic certification and the challenges of...