Healing the Earth
Can organic farming heal the ills of the Earth? In a word, yes.
How? Using organic techniques, farmers use the soil in the ways it was intended to be used. The soil grows the vegetation, which attracts insects, which pollinate the crops, which humans harvest. That circle feeds the people.
The uneaten and unused parts of the plants are composted or turned into mulch, the compost and mulch are placed back onto the soil, and as they decay their nutrients are returned to the soil to produce the next crop. That circle feeds the Earth.
Nature has this agriculture thing figured out, and organic farmers do too.
All of the crops produced by organic farmers are raised without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. Those chemicals are never added to organic soil so they never touch the food.
The techniques and procedures followed by organic farmers allow the harvesting of acres and acres of natural, wholesome foods without contaminating the soil with synthetic chemicals. Organic farming requires less irrigation and more intensive labor than conventional farming, so it can be said that organic farming is a part of conserving water and creating jobs.
Organic Farming is Tops
According to the Organic Trade Association, if every farmer in the nation changed over to organic farming’s sustainable practices there would be 500 million pounds per year of chemical pesticides that would never be placed into the environment or our food supply.
Due to the proliferation of chemical pesticides, there are some plant-eating insects, fungi and bacteria that have become, or are becoming immune to pesticides. Pesticides contaminate the soil, the water shed, and even the air, and they remain present in the environment for decades.
The Organic Trade Association also notes that 81% of families with children purchase organically grown foods at least some of the time.
Parents note reasons such as better health and the desire to avoid toxic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides when they purchase organically grown foods, as well as the desire to avoid GMOs and the growth hormones that are given to livestock in industrial farming operations.
Organic farming builds soil naturally
Organic farming techniques build the soil by natural methods. According to Dr. Elaine Ingham, “Just one teaspoon of compost-rich organic soil may host 600,000 to 1 billion helpful bacteria, from 15,000 species.
By comparison, soil treated with synthetic chemical pesticides may carry as few as 100 helpful bacteria per teaspoon.”
Soil erosion is another major concern to every farmer. Its caused by wind and rain. Organic farmers use crop rotation and plant cover crops in fields that lay fallow for a season, off setting soil erosion.
A study done by David Pimetel at Cornell University found that soil is being swept or washed away 10-40 times faster than it is being naturally replenished, destroying cropland the size of Indiana every year. “Soil erosion is second only to population growth as the biggest environmental problem the world faces”, said Pimentel, “yet the problem is being ignored, because who gets excited about dirt?”
Organic Farming & Global Warming
So, what if organic farming could fight global warming?
It can and it does.
The EPA published a report in 2009 titled Sustainable Development Law & Policy. In volume 9, from Fall 2009, Article 8, I found the following tidbit:
Organic agriculture, more than any other production system, has the greatest potential for combating climate change.
Transitioning to Climate Resilient Agriculture
Climate change is real, and its current and foreseeable future impacts can no longer be overlooked. As policymakers in the United States examine ways to reduce Green House Gas emissions, mitigate climate change, and adapt for its effects, it is apparent that our food and agriculture system cannot be ignored.
Conventional agriculture cannot continue on the same path because it causes a significant portion of our global and domestic GHG emissions.
Without a paradigm shift in farming, excessive and unnecessary GHG emissions will continue and our food system will become ever more susceptible to collapse as a result of climate change.
The policy and legal approaches to addressing climate change through agriculture must involve a transition to a more organic way of farming.
In 2007, the U.S. government allocated more than $3.7 billion in direct subsidies for corn, soy, and wheat.
Less than one percent of corn, soy, and wheat are grown organically in the United States, meaning almost all of these subsidies were given for industrial or conventional production. Source
The EPA goes even further in the claim that organic farming can fight global warming, estimating that composting one ton of organic materials results in the net storage of 600 pounds of CO².
Now, if that doesn’t convince you that organic farming is beneficial, what if I told you that farming organically also supports water conservation?
How can it support water conservation, you say? First by not contaminating the ground water with toxic chemicals, and secondly by using the clean water we have more sparingly, (organic farming requires less irrigation).
Organic farmers amend the soil with composting and mulching instead of using toxic chemical fertilizers, and they use less water irrigating the crops while they are growing, than industrial farmers use.
Some of the biggest threats to clean water are non-organic pesticides and fertilizers, and here in North Carolina, coal ash is leaking from deteriorating ponds. The dumping of industrial chemicals, regulated and unregulated, into the Cape Fear River is another environmental worry.
What have we learned?
In conclusion, it seems that the natural, organic way is best, whether you are talking about farming to feed the population, methods to prevent soil erosion, or ways to protect the water supply we all depend on to sustain our lives.
We will always need to produce enough wholesome food to feed the population while preventing the erosion of the top soil.
Organic farming accomplishes both of those goals.
We will always need clean potable water, not just for drinking, but also for irrigating crops.
While we can’t babysit the corporations which pollute our rivers and streams, we can expand organic farming to conserve water.
So, if you are not a farmer, what can you do to pitch in and help save the planet? Buy more organically produced foods and eat organically produced foods, and encourage others to do likewise. Your body, your health, and even the planet will thank you.