Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Buy local and make sure that it is organic

One of the reasons why I converted to organic production was because I felt unable to guarantee that the food leaving my farm was completely safe. To have given the buyer of a tonne of milling wheat that left my stores with all the possibilities of contaminants that I had applied to the crop during my tender I would have had to have given them a declaration that went something like this;

“This product could contain glyphosate, prothioconazole, metaldehyde, isoproturon, trifluralin, diflufenican, cypermethrin, chlormequat, iodosulfuron-methyl-sodium, mesosulfuron-methyl, boscalid, epoxiconazole, urea, ammonium nitrate, chlorothalonil, proquinazid, pyraclostrobin, chlorpyrifos”.

Now I am not remotely suggesting that the cocktail above is dangerous to human health or our environment, perish the thought, but to tell the whole story of how food was produced on my farm I would have had to included all the potential additives that could be present, and I as a son of the soil and not an advanced chemist felt unable to stand by my sale any more and with my hand on my heart and say, “It’s all fine.”

I am one of those who would also like to know if what I am eating contains genetically modified organisms. Not because I that think that by eating it I will keel over and die because I am going to be eaten inside-out by some Frankensein mutant worm tunneling through my stomach, but as someone who is sceptical about the financial benefits and the technology's environmental performance I would like products containing GMOs to be labeled so that I can make a choice of wether to buy or not.

I fear that increasingly I will not be the only more discerning customer in my local high street or supermarket.  

With the current debacle over horse meat in beef products scandal I can’t help feeling that certainly us supermarket frequenters are going to want a little more clarity about what goes on in our food chain. We certainly can’t depend on our toothless Food Standards Agency any more. 

The cost of cheap food has become painfully apparent, and although there will be plenty of punters out there who will buy the most expensive camera they can afford and then buy the cheapest “value” chicken on offer in Tescos, more and more of us are going to want to invest in better quality food, sold to us by someone we can trust and who can help us understand it’s journey from field to fork. That journey should be simple and as short as possible.

The organic story on this farm is very simple. We don’t use any artificial fertilisers to grow our wheat, instead we use green manures, compost and farmyard manure to build long term fertility ensuring that our soil will continue to serve us for generations to come. Neither do we use a cocktail of chemicals to control insects, funguses and weeds as we find that careful choice of rotation, a mixture of autumn and spring crops, disease resistant varieties will ensure a yearly harvest. We plant the seed and tend it in a natural way, farming with nature, not waging war against it. All farmers understand that nature will have it’s way, so why fight it?

The checks and balances in an organic arable combinable crop system go far beyond any assurance scheme that any of my non-organic neighbours have to endure. Balance sheets of all products coming in and out of the farm have to be produced and physically accounted for. Detailed rotation plans for three years in advance are checked for integrity and long term sustainability, the list goes on. In fact, getting a non-compliance through the rigorous inspection is like trying to persuade an organic certifier that the livestock in Lower Meadow are a herd of cattle and not what they look like which is a herd of ponies. You just wouldn’t do it, would you?

So while the supermarkets shuffle, blame and re-stock, you would do better to buy your weekly groceries from your local supplier with farmer connections and if you really want to make sure that it is safe, buy organic.

For the National Farmers Union Website - February 2012

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