REAL Organic Farming: IT Works!

By Shlomo  Maital





  Close relatives live in the Western Negev (desert) in Israel and have large hothouses, where they raise amazing cherry tomatoes, artichokes, peppers and other vegetables. Initially, they farmed organically, using only natural products (like sulphur) as pesticides, while covering the plants with plastic, and planting them through a plastic ground covering.  As religious people, they followed the rules of organic farming, which have become increasingly strict.  It wasn’t easy.  Then, they discovered that other ‘organic farmers’ were in fact using pesticides in secret.  It’s very hard to regulate.  As religious people, they could not tell a lie,  nor could they compete with the fake organic farmers. So they ceased being ‘organic’.


    This is a shame. Because today’s Global New York Times has an Op-Ed by Mark Bittman, describing research done at Iowa State U. (one of the world leaders in agricultural research), on Marsden Farm.  On 22 acres, starting in 2003, researchers set up 3 plots: a) typical Midwest pattern, corn one year, soybeans the next, with chemicals; b) 3-year cycle, including oats; c) four-year cycle, planting alfalfa, oats, corn and soybeans alternately, no chemicals. Guess what!  The longer rotation, c) produced better results, cut the need for nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides by 88 per cent, reduced toxins in groundwater 200 fold, and kept profits the same.


     So – it IS possible to propagate true organic farming, based on crop rotation.  We’ve known this for years. I grew up in Saskatchewan.  Farmers there planted wheat every year, used up the topsoil, and the result was the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, when the land dried up and the topsoil simply blew away.  After that, fallow (land left unused) became the practice. 


    How can we spread the word to governments and to farmers, that you CAN do organic farming honestly, in ways that don’t hurt profits?   It’s better for consumers, for farmers, and certainly for our distressed planet and our groundwater. 


   So spread the word. Remember – Marsden Farm.   By the way, the US Department of Agriculture has not bothered to publicize the study.  Apparently they are still committed to the old style ‘plaster the bugs with poison’ method.