Thursday, 5 July 2018

Organic farming and Natural farming

People ask me why natural farming and how it is different from organic farming.

It is unfortunate that the meaning of organic agriculture has changed so much since it was first defined by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) more than 2 decades ago. Most people now accept that organic farming simply refers to a farming approach that does not use chemical pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. In a farmers' market a few years ago, I overheard the following conversation:

Customer: "Are your vegetables organic?"

Hydroponics farm representative: "Our vegetables are grown indoor, so no bugs can go in. We do not apply pesticides and our vegetables are clean and hygienic. Yes, our vegetables are organic."

The customer happily bought two packets of vegetables from them.

Even some certified organic farms only just technically abide by the regulations set by the organic certification bodies, ignoring the spirit of organic agriculture.

USDA's definition of organic agriculture in 1995 was

Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony."

I see that the word "organic" is related to the word "organisms". That means it is closely related to life - living things. It is clearly reflected in the original definition of organic agriculture.

Now, the term "organic farming" in people's mind has changed so much in meaning. Vegetable sellers often use it as a marketing tool.

There is a need to differentiate organic farmimg from the farming approaches that really looks after the natural environment, soil, biodiversity, health of people and animals, etc. I take natural farming as an approach that encompasses some of the principles and practices from Masanobu Fukuoka's approach, Shumei natural farming (秀明自然農法), Permaculture, etc. Although some of the practices of these approaches are different, they all have a common goal - caring for nature and people.

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