Designing Landscapes: The real deal, organically speaking – part 1

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    By James Young

    The closer you look at growing organic, the more you’ll learn the advantages organic farming has over Industrial farming that go far beyond being pesticide-free. Organic encompasses the entire cycle of farming from cradle to grave and back to cradle again, year after year.

    Don Bustos, organic farmer of the year, New Mexico. (Photo by AFSC)

    Here is a summary of the advantages of organic farming vs. industrial farming:

    Organic is sustainable; industrial is not. Industrial farming cannot last. It will deplete non-renewable resources (such as the petroleum it takes to run the machinery, create fertilizer and pesticides) as well as the fertility of the farmland it destroys.

    On the other hand, organic builds soil fertility using renewable sources and does not rely heavily on machinery, using much hand (and sometimes animal) labor instead.

    Analogy: Industrial is a big truck with a very large gas tank that contains all the remaining fossil fuel in the world. In as little as 50 years the fuel will run out. When the fuel runs out, no more food. In the meantime, the fuel will get very expensive. Organic is a sailboat.

    Organic builds soil fertility and health; industrial destroys soil fertility and health. Organic farming rebuilds soil using nature’s proven processes developed over millennia — and that’s the only way an agriculturally-based society (ours) can survive in the long term.

    What many people never hear about is that farmland soil is being destroyed by harsh Industrial farm chemicals and methods. Simultaneously, farmland is also being destroyed by real estate development. At the same time, world population is increasing. Does anyone hear this train wreck a’comin?

    Organic yields can match or exceed industrial yields. This is a well-hidden “dirty’”secret that industrial farming doesn’t want you to know about. They claim better yields but do not deliver on that promise, yet nevertheless can afford the PR to cover their failures. Industrial spends billions on advertising and political influence. Your typical earthy organic farmer may have never even seen Madison Avenue.

    Organic turns waste (manure) into a resource (composted fertilizer); industrial uses up natural resources (oil) and creates waste (chemical runoff, unused animal waste).

    Organic tastes better: sweeter, richer, more complex; industrial generally tastes more bland and dull. This is a direct result of the health and diversity of organic soil and organic methods.

    If you want to turn your kids on to eating vegetables, would you feed them the bland dull version tainted with farm chemicals? Or wouldn’t you rather have more success and peace of mind by feeding them the kind that tastes good and is free from pesticides?

    Salad made with lettuce that actually tastes sweet is delicious. On the other hand, if you start with bitter lettuce, no amount of salad dressing will shock that salad back to life.

    I never knew how good vegetables could taste until I tried organic. At that point it was “where have you been all my life?!”

    Organic contains more nutrition; industrial less. There have been some conflicting studies on the amount of nutrients in organic vs. industrial but consensus is leaning toward more nutrients and more diversity of nutrients in organic. More on this later.

    Organic encourages local food, local jobs and local money exchange; industrial relies more on long-distance transportation and yet more fossil fuel burning.

    Organic is the healthiest agricultural option for the environment; industrial introduces thousands of poisonous chemicals every year to the environment.

    Probably the biggest unseen advantage to organic is that it does the least harm to the environment. Organic methods support a diverse biological micro “universe” on the farm. With organic farms, there are little unseen costs passed on to the general public via environmental contamination.

    Unfortunately, these unseen environmental costs are not represented in prices at the grocery store when you buy industrial produce, making the decision of “which is better?” that much more difficult. It might seem industrial is cheaper but the environmental costs are passed on to you and your children behind your back.

    Organic employs more farmers; industrial eliminates farmers’ jobs.

    Organic encourages smaller family farms; industrial overpowers small family farms to take the land to create mega Industrial farms.

    Organic protects farm workers and their families from harmful chemicals; industrial exposes farm workers to life- threatening chemicals that have been shown to transmit to other family members including unborn children.

    Organic makes our food supply more democratic; industrial concentrates power to a few multinational corporations that extract undue favors from government, can afford PR to influence public opinion and cover their tracks, can decide what we will eat, and as of today control about 80 percent of America’s food supply.

    – Finally, when everything goes exactly as it should; organics will have NO pesticide residue on your food. In industrial, when everything goes exactly as it should, you will almost always have a product tainted with chemical residue that you’re supposed to wash off before eating yet at the same time that has been proven to be NOT 100-percent feasible.

    Coming Friday: Part 2, What is organic growing?

    James Young

    James Young is the owner of Blue Wheelbarrow Landscaping in Edmonds.

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