These past few weeks, I’ve made a point of explaining something everyone already knows: farming is tough (and we love it). So why do Gordon and I choose to make our lives harder by farming organically?
Because it’s worth it. We choose not to use chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides because we want the food we grow to be safe to eat and full of nutrition. We want to be able to eat a cherry tomato off the vine, warmed by the sun, and not worry about also eating toxic chemicals. We want our farm to be home to birds, butterflies, bees, and bullfrogs because healthy ecosystems are more likely to survive harsh conditions and because a farm that’s full of life is beautiful.
There’s no question for us that organic farming can grow enough food for everyone while restoring the health of the land. We believe the farmers growing our food (folks like us) deserve to work in a safe environment and have a strong hunch that food grown in healthy soil is more delicious. Most of all, we farm organically because we love this world dearly, and in the words of Wendell Berry, we figure that “what is good for the world will be good for us.” We want our children and their children to inherit land and water that has been cherished, not polluted.
Besides, easy work can get boring. If you’re farming conventionally (that’s agricultural speak for “not organic”) and your cucumber leaves show signs of disease, you go in and spray. If your tomatoes show signs of pest damage, you go in and spray. If your pepper leaves are yellowing, you go in and fertilize. So long as you can afford the chemicals and the equipment, there’s an instant fix for most problems on the farm. (And like most instant fixes, they’ll eventually become problems of their own, and probably more serious problems at that.)
With organic farming, the solutions are grounded in nature. They are far more complex and require a lot more ingenuity. We try to create the healthiest possible environment for our plants so they can fend for themselves against pests, diseases, and extreme weather. We add loads of compost and mineral amendments to our soil in order to give our plants a complete, nutritious diet. Right in the middle of the farm, we planted a pollinator bed of plants to attract beneficial insects who help keep pest populations in check. Farming organically asks us to be thoughtful and resourceful. Does this mean that we make mistakes and lose some plants to pests and diseases? Yes. Do we have to spend more time managing weeds? Absolutely, it’s only natural.
Like us, many small-scale farmers are committed to growing organically. At the farmers' market or CSA pickup, ask your farmers about their growing practices. We are proud of the way we farm and always happy to talk about it.