Sustainable Farming: What is it and What Techniques Does it Involve?

In 1987, the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development released a report called Our Common Future, also called the Bruntland report. That report defined sustainable development as ‘development that meets present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’

Sustainable farming is an offshoot of sustainable development and it includes a number of practices and techniques that conserve natural resources, prevent pollution and actually make the soil healthier. And all this without loss of nutrients in the crop.

We use sustainable farming practices to grow our crops

We are not a ‘certified organic’ farm, in the traditional sense of the term. But we are also focused on producing clean and high nutrient food. We are happy to say that we use sustainable farming practices to produce this food.

Sustainable farming includes a range of farming techniques that can provide high yields without compromising natural systems and the resources that are required to achieve this productivity. Sustainable farmers don’t struggle with or ignore natural processes. They use current technology and knowledge to avoid the negative consequences of using chemical and industrial based chemicals.

Techniques used in sustainable farming

As a result, sustainable farmers minimize or even eliminate the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, saving money and preserving future productivity and the environment. So what are the most popular sustainable farming practices that farmers might use to achieve the key objectives of pest control, erosion control, weed control and improved soil quality? Here is a small list.

  • Soil enrichment
  • Using natural predators of pests
  • Crop rotation
  • Integrated pest management
  • Cover crops

Soil enrichment – Soil is probably the most important element in an agricultural ecosystem. Healthy soil is teeming with life, including many beneficial microorganisms and insects. But the use of pesticides, insecticides and artificial fertilizers kills them off. Good soil not only improves yields, it also produces crops that are less vulnerable to pests. There are many ways to improve soil health naturally like adding compost, leaving crop residue in the field and more.

Using natural predators of pests – If you look at a farm as an ecosystem and not as a factory, you will see many opportunities for natural pest control. Many insects, spiders and birds are natural predators of plant pests. Using natural predators of pests is an effective way to control pests on a farm. One of the side effects of using pesticides and insecticides on crops is that it also kills off these beneficial insects and spiders.

Crop rotation – Crop rotation means growing different crops at different times in the same field. It is a well known sustainable agricultural practice. Crop rotation prevents the consequences of putting the same crops in the same field year after year. It is also effective in pest control because many pests have a preference for certain kinds of crops and if you grow the same crop again and again, you are just guaranteeing them a stable food suppy and helping to increase their population. Crop rotation also replenishes soil nutients.

Cover crops – Many farmers leave their farms bare between crops so that the soil can replenish itself. But this also has unintended consequences. Planting cover crops like clover and oats can supress weeds, improve the quality of the soil and prevent soil erosion. Planting cover crops also reduces the need for using artificial additives like fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides.

Integrated pest management – Integrated pest management is a method to control pests through an integrated process. In this approach, you have to rely to the largest extent possible, on biological pest management techniques rather than chemical ones. It emphasises pest control through techniques like releasing beneficial insects that kill and eat the pests, introduction of disease fighting microorganisms into the soil and the plants and crop rotation. Once you identify a pest problem, you can respond by releasing sterile males and biocontrol insects like ladybugs. Chemical pestides are a last resort.

We are proud to say that we practice sustainable agriculture in our farm. Due to this, our produce is safer than conventional farm produce, while containing more nutrients too. To learn more, please contact us.

How to Tell if your Organic Food is Really Organic

Let us face it, organic food and non-organic food look the same. A tomato will still look like a tomato whether it is organically grown or otherwise. This opens the scope for people to package and sell non-organic food as organic, charging a higher price for something that is really not worth that much money.

Since you cannot tell organic and organic food apart by looking at them, other checks have been put in place to separate the two. In this article, we will see what these checks are.

Checks to ensure what is called ‘organic’ is really so

Before any farmer can label their produce as ‘organic’, they have to get their farm and process vetted by a government-approved certifier. This ‘certifier’ checks whether the farmer is following all the USDA rules for organic food. The USDA has given three categories for labeling a food as ‘organic’.

  • 100% Organic – If a food is labeled as 100% organic, it means it was grown with 100% organic inputs.
  • Organic – If a food is labeled as ‘organic’, it means it contains at least 95% organic inputs.
  •  Made with organic ingredients – This label is given to those foods with at least 70% organic inputs. There are strict restrictions on the other 30% (like no GMO).

If a food product contains less than 70% organic inputs, it can list the organic inputs on the side. However, it cannot make any ‘organic’ claims on the front side.

Why ‘USDA Organic’ label is important?

The USDA seal ensures that a product has imbibed the quality and integrity it promises. For example, if a product is completely organic (like our vegetables), the farmer can label it as ‘100% Organic’. It can also carry the carry the relevant ‘organic’ label given above.

Organic farms must put organic plans in place and also maintain subsequent records to show compliance with the plan. These farms are inspected every year and even randomly to ensure that they are following the relevant rules.

There are some products that are labeled ‘natural’ or ‘all natural’. It may be a true description, but do not confuse it with ‘organic’. Only a food grown or processed according to USDA organic requirements can be labeled as ‘organic’.

So, if you see a ‘USDA Organic’ label on a product, rest assured that the food produced and/or processed adheres to USDA standards.

Why does organic food cost more?

You may ask why all the fuss about organic food and why does it cost more? First of all organic food is more nutritious than non-organic food, and this has been confirmed by research published in peer-reviewed journals. For example, University of California, Davis researchers have found that organically grown tomatoes have higher levels of vitamin C and phytochemicals compared to non-organic tomatoes.

Organic food also tastes better than non-organic food. More and more gourmet chefs across the country are switching to cooking with organic food because they believe organic food has superior quality and taste.

On the other question (why organic food costs more than conventional food?), you should know that organic food farmers do not get government subsidies that are available to conventional farmers. So organic food reflects the real price of the product. Organic food is more planning and labor intensive.

Finally, organic farms do not benefit from the proportionate saving-in-costs gained by increased production level, since they are usually smaller than conventional farms. We are happy to say that our vegetables are 100% organically grown. To give them a try, please give us a call and we will make arrangements for you.