SO, WHY ORGANIC?
We’ve all seen that organic label in supermarkets or read that sign saying “organic fruit and veg” outside trendy markets, or just heard that buzz word flying around. But what does it really mean in its entirety, and why would any farmer choose this path?
Organic is but a mere word that seems to hold so much value and when used, brings about quite a bit of oohs and aahs. Technically the meaning is somewhere along the lines of “living matter”. In terms of the farming and food production industries, it means doing so without the use of any artificial chemicals, fertilisers or pesticides.
To us, we see it as a necessary cog in an ever-changing wheel. We have taken a holistic approach to organic farming. We want to connect with what we are growing in such a way that we form part of the circle, part of the balance.
We’ve broadened our view from not using any chemical fertilisers, pesticides or fungicides, to also growing things in season, and supplying, as well as eating local. Try to imagine the calculated carbon footprint an out-of-season pepper has, not to mention all the chemicals probably used to grow it, and keep it looking fresh for your consumption. The shift of looking at what you eat and understanding how and where it comes from is important in realising and embracing the essence of organic produce.
Working towards the concept of natural farming. Plain and simply put, organic farming is a marketed version of natural farming, the version that “sells”. We firmly believe that organic produce should be accessible to the masses. At the moment however, it seems to be exclusively promoted to those labeled as “well off”, and the prices for produce are, to be quite frank, ridiculous. Okay yes, when growing things organically, there may be a chance of a lower yield due to pests and disease. But that is if you are trying to grow organically in a conventional setting, like monocropping, totally eliminating pests, using chemicals engineered for specific genetically modified plants, and the likes. And that’s just it – organic farming is not only about what you put into your plants, it’s about thinking out of the box and working with nature to find solutions to those pesky problems. In time you’ll find that those so-called pesky problems weren’t actually problems at all, but merely imbalances, that nature inevitably sorts out for you.
Environmentally speaking, growing organically supports, and can improve ecosystems. By not spraying harmful pesticides, one allows a space of abundance for beneficial, and yes, non-beneficial insects and organisms to thrive. In due time, a balance between your pests, those that eat or damage your potential harvest, and their predators, will form. By not applying fertilisers, plants are encouraged to form communication bonds with mycorrhiza in the soil, which allow the plants to get the precise nutrients they need, for all the deficiencies they could possibly get, and for them to connect with other surrounding plants to create mutually beneficial links. As a result, the growth of microorganisms boom, and soil health further improves. Because soil health improves, the water retention of the soil increases and thus less water is wasted. And you end up with happy plants in a thriving ecosystem.
I recently found out a fun fact: if an insect eats the leaves of a plant or if the plant is otherwise slightly damaged and survives, the fruit of the plant can contain an increased amount of antioxidants. This is an evolved reaction and defense mechanism, in order to prolong lifespan and the genes. How marvelously delightful – the nutritional value of produce literally increases if the plant is slightly damaged.
This leads me to consider that we should think about produce differently, and should change the way we look at food in general. We need to see it in a bigger picture, from soil, to seed, to farm, to environmental impact, to harvesting, to packaging, to transport, to public suppliers, to your table, and to the benefits it has on your body. Knowing where your produce is from is a start, knowing how it’s grown is the next step. Being happy with both answers means you are doing your part by living consciously.
For me, one of the beautiful things of organic farming is how truly unique the crops look. Every single vegetable and fruit is different in appearance; a knobble here, an indent there, a size and colour variation… and oh, how wonderful that is! I think we as consumers have to shift our idea of what produce looks like, smells like and tastes like. That perfectly round, deep red glossy apple, with little-to-no taste is overrated. Have you tried washing all that wax off? No thank you, not for me (please do try it – place an apple in a bowl of hot water and watch as the wax floats to the top). Often fruits or veg with slight insect bites or scratches from grazing the branch in the wind are perfectly wholesome and tasty. But somehow we as consumers have been made to believe that these are not good enough and should either be valued at a lower price or should not be bought at all. Man oh man, have we been missing out. If an insect has bitten it, you know it’s good to eat. It’s about looking towards nature for guidance.
We need to learn to love the “ugly” veggies too – they are perfectly wholesome, and there is no reason why we shouldn’t.
There is something special about producing organic fruits and vegetables that lends itself to the creation of community. Not only connecting people to the communities of plants and the environment, but also connecting people to people, the sharing of learnt knowledge for no ulterior motive other than the purest form of helping. Commercial farming prioritises profit, and while generating an income from organic farming is also a need, it’s not necessarily the focus. The health of the ecosystem, soil and plants are at the core. So happily giving a neighbouring farmer some of your cover crop seed because you know it works well, or giving advice on how to plant a certain crop because you’ve done it successfully before, is not a problem because you don’t see each other as competitors, but rather brothers and sisters in farms.
Don’t get me wrong, going organic is not easy – it takes strong will power to push through the rough times. Like the times when all your freshly sprouted green beans are eaten by a tag-team of francolin and guinea fowl, or when the fruitflies find all of your watermelon just too darn tasty to resist. Patience and perseverance are key. Keep doing what you are doing, improve your soil by growing cover crops, plant a diverse variety of crops so you have some sort of back up in the meantime, and mulch, mulch, mulch. Keep on keeping on, in due time nature will play its part and bring about balance. The fruits of that labour are definitely worth it.
Being inspired by nature is possibly the key aspect of going organic. Working with plants you have sown, in soil you have nurtured and replenished, and interacting with their needs in such a way that you are an assistant helper and always a keen observer, just there to tend to needs not yet fulfilled by a balanced ecosystem. In due time you will become part of that balance.
Ultimately, we believe that farming organically is one step on the path towards feeding the world.
– Bushrah, one of those who harvest
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