>> Brand BIO is not a fashion trend for the rich, it is the only possible future for our planet. Organic farmers are people who choose to farm in harmony with nature. Sustainable agriculture is an urgent necessity.
Every agricultural land has its limits on how much yield it can produce with proper care. Industrial fertilizers can allegedly increase yields by up to half. So, what’s the problem?
In intensive agriculture, soil can be likened to an athlete regularly pumped with drugs to achieve superhuman performance. It certainly won’t keep achieving success indefinitely; the need for the drugs will gradually increase, and their effectiveness will diminish until it fades away completely. In the end, only a broken and poisoned organism remains, incapable of any performance. This is precisely what today’s agriculture is doing to agricultural land. Achieving higher yields requires more and more fertilizers, while global reserves of phosphorus for their production are dwindling.
Fertilizer-boosted crops lack the dense and resilient biological structure of other plants, so without the use of plowing and various agricultural chemicals, optimal yields cannot be achieved. A side effect of this approach is soil erosion, its depletion, and drying, as well as the eradication of the soil ecosystem responsible for natural nutrient replenishment. This further increases the need for fertilizers. Unfortunately, the list doesn’t end here. Intensive agriculture is responsible for releasing a massive amount of CO2 from the soil into the atmosphere. Bare soil covered with vegetation for only a few months a year cannot retain water, which not only changes local but also global climate, turning once fertile landscapes into deserts.
Overpopulation leads to excessive agriculture and deforestation; the effort to maximize yields requires much more fertilizers and pesticides. This continuous land use rapidly depletes nutrients in the soil and contributes to the spread of desertification.
On the fatal impacts of agricultural chemicals on the health of end consumers, there are many studies – from an increased risk of cancer to allergies or developmental defects in children, to a dramatic reduction in male fertility, across the entire population. Chemical toxins are no longer just in our food but also in the water we drink.
The solution to all the mentioned problems is a transition to sustainable agriculture (represented in the EU by the BIO label), which relies on natural soil restoration and, thus, sustainable management. I will highlight its main principles:
- Restoration of the soil ecosystem – no industrial fertilizers and chemicals
- Prevention of soil erosion – no plowing, direct seeding, year-round soil cover, regenerative grazing
- Support for biodiversity – a small part of agricultural land is left “at the mercy” of nature
Compliance with these principles is subject to strict control; you can’t deceive it with “nighttime” chemical spraying, and the level of permanent grass cover is monitored by satellites. Contrary to common belief, ecological farmers do not cheat; they extract yields from the soil through a wide range of agrotechnical measures that align with the natural replenishment of soil nutrients (permanent root systems, soil microorganisms, insect functions, etc.). So, no, organic farming is not a return to the Middle Ages but an application of science.
Kiss the ground
A Documentary on the (Un)Sustainability of Current Soil Management. It’s high time for a change. Available on the Netflix platform.
A huge advantage of eco-farming is cost savings on fertilizers and chemicals. The drawback that initially deters farmers is slightly lower hectare yields. This is a matter of principle – higher crop resilience is achieved through their slower growth. However, differences in yields gradually decrease, while fertilizer prices are skyrocketing. So, for those who are not yet eco-farmers by conviction, the financial aspect of the matter will (hopefully) convince them soon.
Organic farming without myths
The principles of organic farming are based on the effort to sustainably preserve the natural fertility of the soil and the moral obligation and responsibility of the farmer to farm in harmony with nature.
While the European Union is taking steps towards the greening of agriculture, these steps are not very resolute. It seems more like no one really wants to take a big bite of the sour apple. However, more vigorous implementation of organic farming would contribute to addressing a whole range of current issues, not only improving the overall health of the population and increasing employment but also significantly improving the carbon balance and reducing dependence on fossil fuels. Conventional farming releases huge amounts of CO2 from the soil, and the use of fossil fuels in the production of synthetic fertilizers is soaring. In contrast, organically managed soil is an almost bottomless reservoir of CO2. Would you believe that even ecologically raised beef (i.e., on pasture) has its natural place in soil ecosystem restoration, and its ecological footprint can be positive through this contribution?
What each farmer can (and sooner or later must) do is clear. We need to start doing things differently than our fathers and grandfathers. As a source of information, I recommend one excellent website, among others:
Educational concept of organic and biodynamic farming that offers a comprehensive program of practical education on organic farms in our country and abroad.
A guide on how to become an organic farmer from a legal perspective can be found on the European Commission’s website. For every farmer, the subsidy system, which facilitates the transition to organic production, may be of particular interest.
Becoming an Organic Farmer
Financial support from the EU is aimed at both transitioning to sustainable farming and preserving organic production. This recognizes the significance of organic farming within various rural development priorities.
And that’s not the only direct financial benefit of eco-farming. Can you believe that you can also earn a decent amount of money per hectare by selling carbon credits?
Carbon Sequestration in Soil – Sale of Carbon Credits
Regenerative agriculture is beginning to appear as the most effective tool for capturing carbon dioxide in the soil. Thanks to new practices, Czech farmers were able to capture over 49,000 tons of carbon dioxide in the soil last year.
But what can I do about it?
Even if we’re not directly farmers, we can still do a lot. First and foremost, let’s change our view of the Bio label. I’ll confess that after a few days of researching this topic, I completely reversed my opinion. The Bio label isn’t just a fashionable trend for the wealthy; it’s our better future and the only one possible for our planet. Bio farmers aren’t swindlers trying to take our money; they are people who have chosen to manage the land in harmony with nature. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out where to find the real swindlers. The demand for Bio products exceeding the supply is exploited by monopolies of producers and retailers. The farmer alone will never get rich from this. But every farmer can complain about these monopolies that control most of the market, it’s not just about the Bio label.
Local / Bio Production
Once we clarify all of this, it’s evident that the rest of us can only contribute by choosing where we decide to shop. Let’s visit the local market, local farmers, butchers, or bakers, preferably for organic products. Even if not, we will get significantly better quality and often even for less money than in the supermarket. Your money will stay “at home” and support local production. And when you drive to the market by car, don’t feel guilty about your carbon footprint; anything local and organic puts you in the plus. You don´t really think that buying a steak from an Argentine bull and a bag of Spanish apples in the supermarket will be offset by walking a kilometer there…?
Carbon Footprint in Organic Food
The average consumption of non-organic meat by one person produces the same amount of greenhouse gases in a year as driving a mid-sized car for a distance of 4758 kilometers.
How can I afford bio?
Yes, organic food is more expensive, often several times more. They are highly sought after not only because they are organic but also because they are healthy. If someone in your family died of cancer, statistically, a significant part of it can be attributed to agricultural chemicals. Before putting more food on your children’s table, it might not be a bad idea to thoroughly consider this fact, simply take into account available information, and revamp your family’s menu accordingly.
How about reducing meat consumption by half and opting for organic quality?
What can I substitute for meat so that the body doesn’t suffer, and the wallet happily cheers?
All of this is described in the following chapters. A superb and significantly cheaper alternative to traditional animal protein is all kinds of legumes or even edible insects, which you can even grow almost for free, even in a high-rise apartment. Experience shows that even ardent opponents of insect consumption don’t mind foods containing insects in a concealed form (e.g., insect flour).