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Friday, February 17, 2012

Educated Organics

Every garden is individual, I understand that.  I also understand that for my generation and every generation before it back to the 1940s using chemicals in the garden, on the farm, or in the yard was considered the norm.  I cannot recommend enough that people read Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma, and pay close attention to the worldwide news regarding chemical agriculture.  I also cannot stress enough how important it is to grow a clean, safe garden.  Keep it organic, whether or not you grow actual food in your garden, there is no reason to use dangerous chemicals to keep healthy plants.

I started out as a conventional gardener, and guess what? I still killed plants.  Now I keep my garden organic, and yes, I kill plants.  But I find I actually kill fewer plants because instead of spraying them with pesticide I take the time to research and learn about the plants I grow.  If a blueberry bush is fading I don't pump it full of chemical fertilizers, now I've learned that a little apple cider vinegar, or coffee grounds may be all it needs to come back strong.  Organic gardening requires that a gardener be knowledgeable about their plants, that the gardener pay attention to plants, climate, pests, watering.  No, it's not as easy.  Yes, I will forgive you if you still prefer conventional gardening; primarily because a home gardener uses far fewer toxic chemicals than a commercial farmer.  I would rather you grow your own veggies with a little Roundup than buy veggies shipped from lord-knows-where that have been sprayed over and over just to ensure they will be perfect for market.  I'd like to convince you not to though!

But I think it's important that every gardener really understand what the repercussions of these sprays are.  Commercial fertilizers can scorch plants, for instance, something that no amount of compost or compost tea will do.

Suppliers of these products will spend any amount of money and are quite willing to straight-out lie about the dangers of their products and the problems they cause.  Because of this it is very hard to link them directly and scientifically to those problems.  If the pollution created were likened to an oil spill (the Gulf Coast oil spill last year let loose 12.5 million gallons a day into the Gulf of Mexico) it would strike far more of a chord with the average person.  American farmers use 1.5 billion pounds of pesticides each year, that's equivalent to 1500 million pounds a year, year after year after year.  Or one third as many pounds as gallons of oil in the Gulf Oil Spill every day.  Why don't we hear more people yelling about this?  Why isn't there government mandated cleanup of pesticide pollution? And why aren't the pesticide companies held accountable for the damage their products do?  Because they scam us into believing that they're safe.

Meanwhile, agricultural pollution has been connected with birth defects, cancer, Parkinson's disease, and other human health risks; with wildlife destruction, dead spots in the seas, mass honeybee die offs and Colony Collapse Disorder; millions of bird deaths; soil destruction, water and air pollution, making the air you breathe, water you drink and soil you grow on unfit to sustain life.  Chemical based agriculture depletes the soil, meaning the plants we eat that are grown this way have less nutrition, the animals we eat that consume chemically grown feed have less nutritional value.  They are more sickly and are then treated with medicines and chemicals to improve their health and growth, which are in turn passed into our bodies when we eat a burger or chicken nugget.  It also increases the likelihood of new super weeds and super bugs developing that will be immune to these chemical treatments.  Certain crops are bred specifically for this type of agriculture such as Roundup Ready crops, and weak varietals that show well in stores, or have good shipping and storage features.  This diminishes the variety of available genetic material with which to develop crops that are naturally adapted to each climate and instead are completely dependent on more sprays to keep them healthy. 

Using chemicals in a garden is lazy, uninformed, and creates a downward spiral that leaves us more and more dependent on chemical companies and less able to do for ourselves.

Just to drive this concept home, here is a link to an article written about my home:  Downwind: Big Ag at Your Door, this article talks about my own hometown of Blachly, Oregon.

I can't tell readers enough about why organic is the only way to grow, and I truly hope that this blog helps to educate readers and interest them in organics and becoming knowledgeable about their plants.

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