I often hear family, neighbours and friends talk with pride about the organic produce they grow in their backyard. They love that they know what has gone in it, but more importantly, what has NOT gone in it. Many are drawn to organic farming for that very reason of not using pesticides, growth hormones, synthetic fertilisers, antibiotics or genetically modified organisms.
However, organic farming is more than growing your own herbs in garden and making sure you don’t use insecticides. As Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs puts it, organic farming means optimising the productivity and fitness of diverse communities within the agro-ecosystem which includes soil, plants, livestock and people, ensuring that the end product is harmonious with the environment.
Crop rotation is practised so that nutrients in the soil are managed and soil stability is maintained. Pests are also minimised. Organic farming includes ensuring that organic matter and nutrients produced go back to the farm. For example, fruit that has dropped and cannot be used for consumption is put back into compost, or using garlic skin or eggshells to keep pests away. It could also include storing rain water to water the crops.
Organic farming calls for careful processing and handling methods, and all in an environmentally friendly manner. You would not know most of these unless you visited the farm yourself and see all these practised throughout the day and year. So yes, it is good to grow crops in your backyard, whether it’s herbs, tomatoes, chillies or melons, beans and eggplant. Children are able to see where food comes from, which is valuable education in itself. Look up good practices around crop rotation, composting and natural pest management, and see how you could start applying them in your gardening practices.
However, it is likely that it is not possible to grow everything you eat in your garden. For produce that you need to buy, the safest way would be to look for certified organic products. Reputable organic certification bodies often ensure that the above are not only done, but also that prohibited products and practices are not used on certified organic farms for at least 3 years prior to the harvest of certified organic products. For products other than produce, for example, skincare, a certified organic product also means being able to trace back the ingredients used to the actual farms.
With organic farming, you can be sure that you have something that is healthy and has no added artificial or nasty ingredients. Food is often fresher as it will not have preservatives to make it last longer. Studies have also shown some nutrients are higher in organic meat and milk compared to those raised conventionally. Organic farming is also better for the environment since natural methods are used for pest management, nutrient optimisation and soil fertility. By using natural practices, there is also less water usage, less usage of energy and pollution is reduced overall. Definitely a win all around! The next generations will be thankful for the care we have taken for Mother Earth.
So here’s to more natural and certified organic produce and products!