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Organic Farming

Author: Liz Eglington - Blue Sky Organics

( Article Type: Explanation )

Organic farming is the way that our food was grown for thousands of years and is nothing new. What IS new is the indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides that are now being used to grow our food. In general our food has become a commodity and is no longer a vibrant, live source of nutrients and energy that is essential for physical and mental well being.
It is therefore essential that we as farmers and consumers understand the meaning and importance of organic farming methods.
Organic farming methods obey the universal ‘Law of return’. Which is that whatever is taken out of the soil is put back ‘in equal measure’. Every time weeds are removed, products are harvested, and pruning is done, the nutrients that those plants mined from the earth are removed. To maintain soil health and balance, to obey the Law of Return, and to ensure that there are nutrients available for the new crops/plants to absorb, those nutrients need to be returned to the soil.

Organic farmers do this in various ways:
• Through making and applying a rich compost that contains a diverse mix of plant matter, (green and brown) and animal manures.
• Through intercropping with a diverse mix of crops and companion plants to provide the ecological balance required above and below the soil.
• To keep all of the soil covered with green and brown mulches which keep the root zones and soil cool which in turn provide an optimum habitat for soil micro-organisms.
• Regular soil and leaf analyses are done to identify shortages and to track progress in addressing nutritional imbalances.

Organic pest and disease management depends on soil health and a healthy eco-system full of diversity. Mono-cropping creates imbalances which attract pests and diseases. These challenges can be kept to a minimum and in certain cases eradicated if soil health is maintained. When challenges do arise there are natural and organic products widely available which assist in various ways:
• By introducing a natural predator
• To stop breeding
• To stop feeding
• As a repellent
• To kill the insect or disease.

The aim of organic farming is to practice stewardship, maintain a healthy environment and eco-system, whilst producing food that is full of nutrients and gives vibrant health to the animals and humans that consume it. The future of organic farming is South Africa is positive through the formation of SAOSO (South African Organic Sector Organisation) which in partnership with Dept Agriculture and the DTI has produced the organic policy document which is pending ratification in Parliament. This is a far-sighted and far-reaching document which proposes that organic farming be taught in all educational institutions, throughout relevant government departments, and that providing education ’and raising awareness is a priority.