As it says in the “About” page of this blog, I’ve been “organic” since 1994. As these things go, that sounds fairly progressive now, but if you read further, you read that I stopped using pesticides to attract more butterflies to my property. Along the way, I discovered that in the process of making a welcoming home for butterflies, I was actually creating a pretty nice place to live for all manner of other things, especially song birds. These lovely birds, with their equally lovely songs, have helped me keep my insect population in check. What’s not to like?
Interestingly enough, some very big name agriculture interests conducted a study about organic farming recently. Mark Bittman wrote about it in the New York Times. But as Bittman said in his opinion pice, this study–and it was a big one–has gotten almost no publicity. So if that’s the case, how will anything change? So here’s my attempt at helping.
The verdict? Not only does organic farming work (gee, what a surprise), but it can work just about as profitably as modern-day farming, with it dependence on genetically modified seeds, and heavy doses of pesticides and artificial fertilizers.
What’s changed in the equation? The addition of livestock. That provides the manure–i.e., the “fertilizer”–for the organic farms.
Oh yes, a few other things changed too. There is no rote reliance on schedules of fertilizers or pesticides, organic or otherwise. There is an almost slavish insistence on observation (something I am always insisting upon when I lecture. “Look at your plants. Watch your plants. Know your plants and what’s normal for them. They’ll tell you when something’s wrong long before you need heavy doses of sprays to fix it!”)
This isn’t hard for most people. What’s nicer than a walk around the garden a couple of times a week, either first thing in the morning, perhaps before dinner, or even in the evening twilight?
Back in the day when I kept crazy hours, I was even known to garden under lights! While I’m not one to suggest such craziness, I do know it’s probably what kept me sane during those 80 hour weeks!
While no one is suggesting that large-scale organic farming is as relaxing as a walk around an organic garden, neither is anyone suggesting that weekly or bi-weekly spraying of pesticides and herbicides, along with the precautions that need to be taken when doing that, a good or relaxing thing. Further, being indebted to seed companies for genetically modified seed can also lead to unwarranted stresses.
Obviously not everyone will be able or willing to convert to this type of system. But if even some farms do convert, what a good thing it would be!