Organic is about ‘dirt farming,’ ‘feeding the world’

Ideas about what constitutes “organic” – especially by people who should know better – surprises me sometimes.

For example, I keep seeing “studies” that purport to show that conventional, i.e. industrial/chemical agriculture “outperforms” organic crops.

It’s become a chestnut that it “feeds the world” (by spraying poisons, using up fossil fuels and destroying plant diversity through genetic manipulation – which are each and all unsustainable practices).

But the boastful claims are often based on “science” that’s skewed toward conventional methods. Notably, a “scientist” will take one plant and will dump synthetic fertilizer on it, spray it with pesticides and herbicides, then take another plant and and leave it alone and call it “organic.”

Naturally, the “conventional” ag plant will appear to thrive. But that’s a false measure. There’s nothing “organic” about a neglected plant in poor soil.

Organic growing, often called eco-farming or agro-ecology, is the opposite of simply applying artificial inputs. Instead, you cultivate the soil for what goes into the plant that, in turn, goes into the human body. In every sense of the word, it is organic – systemic or holistic – providing nutritious food from the ground up and the inside out.

Organic farmers might more accurately be called “dirt farmers,” in the strictest sense of the term: It’s all about the soil.

Good soil produces good plants; poor soil, goosed by synthetic means, does not. And by using artificial and synthetic means, conventional agriculture is destroying soil – by killing micro-organisms that boost plant growth. It also removes trace elements that add to nutrition, while washing away soil nutrients and often leaving salts, creating desertification (with more than 100,000 acres – and growing – in California alone now useless for agriculture because of this today).

That’s what the “science” on “organic” versus “conventional” agriculture doesn’t tell you.

If crop scientists want to actually live up to the ideals of science – to discover truth – rather than just obtain more grants from Agribiz and be echo chambers for their interests, then they would be more honest in their methods and assessments.

If you want to read a scientifically based study that does not have as its unstated premise a bias toward chemical farming, then read the United Nations special report released in March:

Titled Agro-ecology and The Right to Food, it demonstrates that organic growing can sustainably double food production in entire regions within 10 years – while mitigating climate change and alleviating rural poverty!

Feed the world, indeed!

That’s real science, real food, real organic!

Reader Response: We are putting in 3-4 of your 4×8 (Jim’s Plots) in our backyard and the best spot is covered in thin monkey grass. Do we have to dig up the grass, roots and soil there?

The best way to take care of that is to cover it in cardboard then build compost, dirt, etc., 5-8 inches on top of it. By the time the cardboard decomposes, the monkey grass should be decomposed, as well; and you’ll have a deeper layer of soil. You can also use old newspapers.

This building up of layers of soil is called “lasagna gardening,” and it works anywhere. We do it with cold frames we put out each fall.

Also, do this on a grassy patch adjacent to your plot, and by next spring, you will have enlarged your garden with new soil ready to plant.

Contact Jim Ewing at (601) 961-7036, email, on Twitter @OrganicWriter, or Facebook: cuxUdc.

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