Episode 31: Composting, Alternative Ag & Growth in Organics

This is the World Organic News Podcast for the week ending 5th of September 2016.

Jon Moore reporting!

As many of you will know by know, I’m an advocate of no-dig/no-till production methods. So it is with some trepidation I bring you a post from Beech Cove! The Hustle: Double Digging.  To be fair, Beech Cove Farm is predominantly a no-dig, n0-till setup. That being said, they chose to double dig their vegetable patch this once. From now on they will be no-dig. The argument put forward is the time savings that occur with a double dig start to the garden. We can see, with a little thought, that this process, and it is a huge amount of work, does release all those nutrients held in the fungal communities under the sod. By then moving to no dig, the communities can re-establish themselves. I have my own opinions on this but I provide a counter argument for your consideration. The post is well worth a read. Link in the show notes.

As I’ve said before, “waste” is simply something in the wrong place. So the post from sustainableplanetblog: Make Dirt, Not Waste; A Guide for Easy Composting, and Why You Should Do it. Explains how to move the waste from where it is out of place to where it can continue the cycling of nutrients and matter through the ecosystem. It is a matter of using entropy to disaggregate the “waste” into form of greater value to both ourselves and the soil. The post points out that composting is an aerobic process. That is it occurs in the presence of oxygen. Landfills, by their nature, bury the organic matter forcing an anaerobic decomposition. Anaerobic decomposition creates methane as a by product. Methane, as a greenhouse gas, is CO2 on steroids. There are biodigesters which harness this process to capture the methane. This is then used for cooking, heating, power generation and so on. 

Most landfills are not of this type on anaerobic digestion. The methane simple escapes and adds to the greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and oceans. So by composting our organic wastes we take small steps to reduce the increase in said gasses. Many small steps combined lead to world changing movements. It well past the time we all got on board this particular vessel.

An article in the Courier, out of Dundee in Scotland makes the argument for organic food. Both from an environmental standpoint and from a consumer demand point of view with the title:  Going organic won’t cost the earth. Quite the contrary, I suggest, it will maintain it as a habitable space for humans! Have a read, see what you think.

I quote from What Would It Take to Mainstream ‘Alternative’ Agriculture? A post on the blog Alternet:

The industrialized food system, studies have shown, is linked to greenhouse gas emissions, algal blooms, pesticide pollution, soil erosion and biodiversity loss, to name a few ecological troubles.

End quote.

While individual farmers are aware of this change is not happening rapidly as the piece then explains:


….growing awareness and those heightened expectations haven’t led to alternative agricultural systems becoming the norm in the U.S. Organic has made some headway, but many organic growers have been forced to imitate industrial farming: grow bigger, resort to monocultures instead of truly diversified fields, and sell to large supermarkets — forgoing many of the benefits alternative agricultural systems offer, such as natural pest control, pollination from native bees, and a smaller production scale conducive to family farmers and local food economies.

End quote.

This gives you a feel for the flavour of the piece. It is reasonably long but worth taking the time to read. I have included a link in the show notes.

And it is not just in the US where such agroecological methods have been slow to take root. Somewhere between just 2 and 3% of Irish agriculture is certified organic. So explains the The Independent in an article entitled Organic Growth. So while things are not good at the moment there is enormous potential for growth. Coupled with the Brexit vote and the possible loss of a major market for Irish Agriculture, conversion to organic certification is a safety net for prices as well as a win for the environment. Given Ireland’s relative abundance of water and fair to excellent soils this should be a no brainer. I might also note here that Ireland has a small but vigorous Permaculture movement so all is not as bad as depicted in this article. 

And that brings us to the end of this week’s podcast.

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Any suggestions, feedback or criticisms of the podcast or blog are most welcome. email me at podcast@worldorganicnews.com.

Thank you for listening and I’ll be back in a week.

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