FARMING TO SAVE THE PLANET
What is Organic Farming?
We are now becoming more and more aware of the benefits of eating organic food. Not only is it healthier for us, organic farming methods are better for the planet when compared to chemical farming. Correct organic farming relies on techniques such as crop rotation and non-synthetic compost fertilizers. The soil on organic farms has not been treated with chemicals allowing it to produce healthy plants that become nourishing for both humans and animals. The soil can absorb more water requiring less irrigation and therefore there is less water wastage. The roots on organic crops are bigger, deeper and stronger allowing for endurance during changing weather conditions. Mycorrhizal fungi are also able to thrive in this chemical free soil, this fungi pulls carbon from the air and stores it in the ground contributing to a cleaner breathing space. Organic farming is free from extremely harmful chemical pesticides. Many Environment Protection Agency (EPA) approved pesticides were registered long before extensive research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. Organic farming is one way to prevent any more of these chemicals from getting into the air, earth and water. Organic farms are kind to the environment, they encourage a healthy ecosystem, supporting both plant and animal life.
In her book Organic Manifesto, Maria Rodale mentions that a study conducted on 33,000 acres of organic farmland “kept 10.5 million pounds of chemical fertilizers and 305,000 pounds of chemical pesticides out of the environment and saved 1.7 million gallons of petroleum. The carbon they have sequestered is equivalent to taking 7,500 cars off the road every year.” These figures are extraordinary and just go to show how vital organic farming is for the planet.
What is Diversified Farming
Diversity is the foundation of any sustainable agriculture system. In diversified farming, food crops are planted and animals are grazed in ways that replenish natural ecosystems. Raising a diverse array of crops and animals is much more effective than growing just one crop. Diversified farming promotes useful biodiversity which is critical to agriculture. The plants, animals and insects all work together. A variety of crops are planted in the same field which help to control plant disease as well as insect and weed problems. Hedgerows are planted around the crops providing habitat for beneficial insects that control pests and provide pollination. The leftover plant material doesn’t need to be thrown away, it can be used to make compost. The manure of animals who are happily roaming on green pastures help to nourish the soil, which will in turn, nourish the plants. These animals also provide us with meat, milk and eggs.
Eat with the seasons, from your local farmers
For food that is bursting with flavour choose to buy produce that has been grown locally and seasonally. Seasonal and local produce is picked to perfection and its flavour and nutrients are at their peak. There are many advantages to eating this way;
More cost efficient- the basic law of supply and demand. When produce is in season locally, the ample supply of the crop usually make it less expensive.
It tastes so much better- food that has been grown out of season has either been grown in a hothouse or shipped from long distances, often from other parts of the world. When crops are transported they are picked early and stored in a refrigerator to prevent rotting. They do not ripen as they would in their natural environment and the capacity of the crops full flavour is affected. Think back to a time when you have eaten strawberries, were they grown locally in the spring/summer time? Or were they shipped in from another state or country during the cooler months? Familiarise yourself with the ideal climate that crops are to be grown. When you know your food is grown in season you can expect an abundance of flavour and nutrients.
An assortment of food, all year round- with a change of season comes a new variety of crops. The warmer months bring cherries, peaches, tomatoes and zucchini. Whilst the cooler months see passionfruit, kale, brussel sprouts and leeks. You will see some fruits and vegetables year round like carrots and cabbage and they may come in different varieties throughout the year, such as onions. The location in which crops are grown also have an impact, you won’t see coconut trees far from the equator for instance, these need warm humid environments. Eating seasonally and locally allows you to enjoy a range of different produce. It helps you to appreciate a particular food as it may only be available for a short time, until the next year.
Better for the environment- produce that is harvested early must first be prepared for shipment. Transportation of crops often require irradiation (radiation to kill germs) and preservatives to protect the produce during the refrigerated trip (the cold further depletes the foods flavour). Local organic foods avoid this process and are kinder to the environment. There are no chemicals used which can leak into the air and water, nor is there petroleum used by the delivery vehicles.
Organic farmers are not given support by the government like chemical farmers are. The reason chemical farmers can charge less for their produce is because they are given subsidies to farm the way they do. In order to make organic produce more cost efficient we must demand it. The more organic food we buy, the more it will become available and when demands are high, cost goes down. The impact that chemical farming has on our health, the health of our children and the environment is catastrophic. Supporting organic farming brings us one step closer to building a cleaner planet, for us and our generations to come.
Here’s how you can support your local organic farmers as well as build better health;
– Shop at local farmers markets
– Buy into a herd share, these are available for both meat and dairy
– Buy meat in bulk, this is cheaper and saves you from having to pick up meat every week. Share with a friend if it’s too much for your family
– Shop at stores who support locally grown organic farmers
Another way to eat organic is to grow your own food. Even if it’s a few herbs or a tomato plant. Or get some chooks and have an endless supply of eggs.
This article was featured in The Goodness Magazine