Just Food – Organic Food – Session 2
Here follows the write up from the second workshop session on Organic Food that took place at the recent CEL ecocell “Just Food” workshop day on 18th January 2014, held at St George’s Church, Bloomsbury, London.
Session notes were recorded and transcribed by Lydia Groenewald
Session 2 – Organic – how we grow food
Small scale organic farming (e.g. allotments, back gardens) is hard work. People have tried and failed.
Education about organic came from sources like Pat and Tony Archer from the Archers [ radio show ].
Organic food is key for the health of the land and the environment.
The Soil Association was the most recognised accreditation logo. We recognised the costs of becoming accredited e.g. soil had to be organic for a number of years prior to being able to get accredited, although support was available to farmers undergoing the transition.
We talked about organic veg/fruit box schemes. Users had noticed health benefits. They were good for helping you eat seasonal produce, and introducing you to items you had never come across before. National companies mentioned were Abel and Cole, and Riverford.
We also used local farmers markets to source organic produce. Even if they could not afford Soil Association accreditation you could get to know your local farmers and find out directly from them about their farming methods.
Permaculture – there was limited understanding of this concept. Difficult to do in practice in the UK. Involves layering of plants etc. Needs a certain climate.
It was observed that organic farming was more labour-intensive, and that we had high unemployment – is there a way of mobilising more people to enable growth of organic farms, and teaching people new skills?
We discussed the challenges of calculating the carbon of items. There was a feeling that the things that could be grown locally should be eaten in line with their seasons, and for those items that weren’t possible to grow locally we should buy organic.
Supermarkets should be encouraged to sell more items that don’t fit normal shapes and sizes, and we should buy them.
Composting was seen to be the beginning and end of the world! In the palm of 1 hand you could hold approximately 2 tablespoons of leaf mold (roughly 40 millilitres). This takes 2 years to breakdown and contains the same number of living organisms as there are humans on the planet.
We commented on the issue with the practice of turning over top-soil and therefore losing the most nutritious part of the soil in the depths of the earth.
Under the heading of GM we discussed the issue of not enough government support for organic farmers. We were shocked by the fact that pharmaceutical companies were often the ones controlling the GM seed banks. These often restricted farmers to buy new seeds every year at whatever cost, and then use the companies’ own fertilisers etc too. You can watch a documentary about Monsanto (the world leader on GMOs) here, and you can sign a petition about the introduction of “Terminator Seeds” in Brazil here.
Rather than using generic seeds we discussed fact that using seed produced by the plants on your land had the benefit of that seed having learnt how to work with its land and how it adapted to its local environment.