What’s so good about ‘Organic’?

Organic is the latest buzz word around town and if you’re not sure what it is, you at least know it’s healthy… or something like that.

photo (c) Kat Wray

So what does organic mean?

According to the BPA (Biological Farmers of Australia):

Organic produce is grown and processed without the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilisers, or GMOs with a focus on environmentally sustainable practices”.

To be certified organic in Australia there are three main focuses:

  • Soil fertility – methods such as crop rotation, green manure crops and composting to maintain natural soil fertility.
  • Pest & disease control – mechanical and natural methods of pest and weed control.
  • No GMO’s (genetically modified organisms)

This means no artificial fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides are permitted creating a more natural product. An organic farm must also adhere to these practices for a transition period of a few years before being certified organic.

Aside from your food being chemical free, you’re also supporting sustainable agriculture which also supports a better ecosystem.

To ensure you are not buying products that have misleading claims of being organic, looking for the accredited logo “Australian Certified Organics” is your best bet.

What does biodynamic mean?

photo (c) Kat Wray

Biodynamic farming is an enhanced version of organic farming (which actually predates it). Whilst similar to organic practices, biodynamic agriculture is all about ‘self-sufficiency’ where the entire farm becomes ‘a living organism’ – the farmer, the land, even the animals play a part – that’s right animals. Animal husbandry plays a part, as animals aid in successful crop rotation and the manure being an essential tool in cultivating the land for crop planting. The animals are primarily fed from the farm itself.

Vegans beware – aside from manure, there are other animal bi-products used to condition the soil, such as “cow horn manure” and “horn silica” HOWEVER, the guidelines depict that the animals receive continuous observant care and must be able to carry out their innate behavioural traits and recognise animals as ‘ensouled beings’.

Soil husbandry is the most important part of the system however, with high standards of soil conditions being vital.

Biodynamic Agriculture Australia explain Biodynamics:

“Biodynamics is a regenerative agriculture, holistic in approach and practice, through which the farmer and gardener bring the substances and forces of nature into a quality and sustainable production.”

The concept of biodynamic agriculture was born from the lectures of Austrian scientist and philosopher Dr Rudolf Steiner in 1924. Dr Steiner wrote the lectures at the request of local farmers who were concerned about the future of agriculture due to their depleting soil conditions and quality of stock. The concept was brought to life by other practitioners and is now somewhat managed by world certification agency Demeter International.

Biodynamic food has been known to stay fresh longer than organic produce and because of its focus on rehabilitating and enhancing soil this is a very sustainable agricultural practice.

Why choose organic (or biodynamic) food?

  • It tastes better (some people will say this is an arguable point, but if there are no chemicals involved in the production how can it not taste better?!)
  • Supports sustainable agriculture practices (not only improving soil, but no nasty chemicals get into our ground water system)
  • The food contains a higher level of nutrients (scientifically proven)
  • Produces chemical and additive free foods
  • Supports the local community

For more reasons why you should check out the Organic Food Directory website.

Don’t be fooled

There are still some products on the market that claim to be organic or biodynamic but with no certification (or at least, a certification you’ve never heard of). If unsure, you can double check for a company’s legitimacy using the Ethical Consumer Guide iPhone app as I have suggested before, or check  the Organic Federation of Australia’s website for current certification labels.

You should also be wary of products such as premade food and beauty products claiming to contain organic produce – whilst there might be one organic item in the mix, this doesn’t mean the entire product is organic or good for you. Organic lavender isn’t going to make a difference if you’re still putting harmful chemicals on your face. It really does pay to read the label.

My experience

Without really knowing what it was all about, I made a pledge for 3things that I was going to buy organic produce, which is how my organic adventure began. I didn’t realise at the time that I’d go one step further and order weekly packaged boxes of biodynamic fruit and vegetables from a local farm called Mimsbrook Farm  in Darling Downs (Perth, Western Australia). Eating only organic produce for a month seemed like the best way to experience the food.

photo (c) Kat Wray

My delivery box only has what is in season and available at the time of packing – you never know what you’re going to get! Eating seasonally is sustainable and nutritional.  Whilst the selection at your local markets appear fairly vast – if you look closer you’ll realise a lot of the fruit and vegetables are from interstate or even international! A few weeks ago I almost picked up some asparagus at the supermarket but noticed it had been shipped from Peru! The carbon footprint on that asparagus was far too much. Locally grown fruit and vegetables ensures freshness and a low transportation distance ensures a smaller carbon footprint.

Because I am supporting a community farm, I have to support their business too – which means I had to pay for a month’s worth of vegetables up front. It might have seemed like a lot at the time, but I barely have to visit the supermarket anymore so I’m certainly not complaining!

In order to not waste anything I also have to pre-plan the entire week of meals – it can’t be about what I am ‘in the mood for’ but more about ‘what can I make with this?’. Personally I am keen for the challenge, but not everyone’s a cook! It requires dedication to get pre-packaged boxes!

There is also the cost. Yes, organic or biodynamic food is generally more expensive. I personally put good food first, so paying extra doesn’t bother me and unless you are on a super strict budget, you have to think that the extra cost comes back in return as extra nutrients, chemical free food and supporting sustainability.

The conclusion?

I have fruit and vegetables that are rich in colour and flavour, I could hear the fresh crispiness when I cut into the produce, I am eating food that is in season – even vegetables I have never tried before (such as kale, which happens to be the super vegetable of the world!) and I feel good knowing I am getting nutrient rich food whilst supporting a sustainable local business and community. It feels good to buy organic!

4 Comments Add yours

  1. We totally agree that organic produce tastes better and we always try to buy organic too! But we feel like saying organic is “better” for the environment is not necessarily true. We found that in order to replace all of the “inorganic” nitrogen fertilizer that is currently applied in industrial farming and use more “organic” methods (namely using cow manure as fertilizer) we would need an extra 7 billion cattle grazing on an estimated 30 billion acres of pastureland. That’s some serious environmental damage.

    Don’t get us wrong, we don’t advocate for big farms and industrial farming, but for the integrity of the organic movement, we feel like leaving the environmental argument out would be a lot more honest. After all, the E. Coli outbreak in Europe recently was sourced at an organic German farm. But we still love organic!!

    Awesome post!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s