‘THE WELL’ IS AN EMERGING ORGANIC FARM IN SWELLENDAM
FARMER JOHN ORGANIC STANDARDS:
1. For uncompromised nutritional value all crops must be grown in fertile soil attached to the earth and nourished by the natural biological activities of that soil. There are so many vital aspects of soil processes that we could not replace even if we wanted to, because we are still unaware of how they all work.
2. Soil fertility should be maintained principally with farm-derived organic matter and mineral particles from ground rock. Why take the chance of bringing in polluted material from industrial sources when fertility can be created and maintained internally?
3. Green manures and cover crops must be included within broadly based crop rotations to enhance biological diversity. The greater the variety of plants and animals on the farm, the more stable the system.
4. A “plant positive” rather than a “pest negative” philosophy is vital. We focus on correcting the cause of problems by strengthening the plant through optimum growing conditions to prevent pests, rather than merely treating symptoms by trying to kill the pests that prey on weak plants. Extensive scientific evidence is available today on the mechanisms by which a biologically active fertile soil creates induced resistance in the crops.
5. Livestock must be raised outdoors on grass-based pasture systems to the fullest extent possible. Farm animals are an integral factor in the symbiosis of soil fertility on the small mixed farm.
The goal of these five precepts is vigorous, healthy crops and livestock endowed with their inherent powers of vitality and resistance.
As team ‘The Well’ we recognize successful organic farming is a result of a guiding principle namely:
“The vital role of a biologically active fertile soil as the basis for producing the highest quality food.”
26th October 2017
John Vajra on Open Source Permaculture:
“Permaculture is about liberation, freedom and prosperity. Permaculture is about the natural fertility of the earth, and the natural right of every being to cultivate and enjoy that fertility, freely.”
“Permaculture is a movement concerned with sustainable, environmentally sound land use and the building of stable communities, through the harmonious interrelationship of humans, plants, animals and the Earth.”
“Care of the Earth” includes all living and non-living things, such as animals, plants, land, water, and air.
“Care of People” promotes self-reliance and community responsibility.
“Give Away Surplus” pass on anything surplus to our needs (labor, money, information) for the above aims.
Implicit in the above is the “Life Ethic”: all living organisms are not only means but ends. In addition to their instrumental value to humans and other living organisms, they have an intrinsic worth.
Permaculture is an ethical system, stressing positivism and cooperation.
Monoculture is the agricultural practice of producing or growing a single crop, plant, or livestock species, variety, or breed in a field or farming system at a time. Polyculture and/or Permaculture (“Permanent agriculture”) where more than one crop is grown in the same space at the same time, is the alternative to monoculture.
Continuous monoculture, or monocropping, where the same species is grown year after year, can lead to the quicker build-up of pests and diseases, and then rapid spread where a uniform crop is susceptible to a pathogen. The practice has increasingly come under fire for its environmental effects and for putting the food supply chain at risk. Diversity can be added both in time, as with a crop rotation or sequence, or in space, with a Polyculture.
The Organic way: Organic and Agro-ecological farming is a viable and necessary alternative to unsustainable mono culture ways of producing food. Modern monoculture farming uses more petroleum than any other single industry. More energy is now used to manufacture synthetic fertilizers than to till, cultivate and harvesting of crops. Manufacturing petroleum-based synthetic fertilizer is now responsible for 5% of total world fossil fuel consumption.
We have left Waaipoort Farm and relocated to the village of Paul Roux off he N5 near Bethlehem in the Eastern Free State.
Watch this space – the new home of ‘the Little Herb Cottage‘ herbs and herbal products grown and produced on a Urban Permaculture Farm.
poles up – waiting for shadenet
With our temporary propagation and nursery area bursting at the seams it is a welcome site to see poles in place for our permanent nursery and ready for shade net. The Waaipoort nursery is an important part of our farm infrastructure where a wide variety of different species of veg, herbs, fruits, indigenous plants and trees are propagated, not only for our own use but also for eventual distribution to the wider community.
A few interesting facts around food diversity from a report released by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):
- There are around 30,000 edible plants growing on the planet today, however humans on average only eat about a dozen.
- As humans we require between fifty and hundred different chemical compounds and elements to be healthy. Only a very small percentage can be found in animal products with the vast majority to be found within the roots, shoots and leaves of the thousands of consumable plants that grow around the world. A diet that disregards diversity does so at the detriment of our health.
- Only around fifty crops deliver 90% of the world’s calories whereas less than a century ago several thousand plants would have done so. Today the emphasis by commercial agricultural is on the big four – wheat, corn, soybean and sunflower which is cheap and easily reformulated, packaged and sold for profit with scant regard for our health and wellbeing.
Yvette with newly received PGS certificate
Congrats to Yvette and Netanya (Farmer John) for receiving the PGS certification.
For those of you don’t know:
PGS South Africa operates according to the guidelines for Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) as defined by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).
“Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) are locally focused quality assurance systems. They certify producers based on active participation of stakeholders and are built on a foundation of trust, social networks and knowledge exchange.” (IFOAM, 2008)
PGS represent a real alternative to third party certification, especially adapted to local markets. Thousands of small farmers who grow organic produce are unable to certify their products. Many established organic producers are certified by third party certifiers. It is the system most countries require for organic certification. Third party certification can be quite costly and requires onerous record-keeping and infrastructure beyond the means of most small farmers.
THE STANDARD: Growers are assessed according to a set of Basic Production Principles. These principles are based on the AFRISCO Organic Standard and in compliance with PGS requirements in the South African Draft Regulations. It must be noted that PGSSA has no relationship with AFRISCO and that AFRISCO neither supports nor endorses PGSSA. The choice to use the AFRISCO Standard as baseline is due to the fact that the standard is in general use across Southern Africa and is accredited by IFOAM.
Monoculture refers to large areas of land on which only one type of plant is grown. There are tree monoculture as well as crop monoculture. There are dangers associated with this approach to agriculture, especially environmental ones.
1. Monoculture is very vulnerable. It can be wiped out completely by one virus, fungus, destructive insect, or other disease. A farmer could lose his or her entire crop – and income – to one microbe.
2. Monoculture encourage more diseases, weeds, and destructive insects. These pests build resistance to the changeless nature of a monoculture, and their life cycles are never interrupted.
3. Because the natural resistance is so low in a monoculture, farmers must use greater and greater amounts of synthetic pesticides and fungicides to keep their crops alive and yielding. The environmental and health impacts of this kind of copious use of agri-chemicals are significant.
4. Nutrients become depleted in soil that is used to grow only one type of crop year after year. Thus, farmers must step up the chemical fertilizers to keep getting crop yields.
5. The recent decline in honeybee populations has caused many to cast a critical eye on monoculture as a possible causal factor. Honeybees are prime pollinators, and only having one type of flower from which to gather pollen is completely unnatural (vast monoculture do not occur in nature).
Research has shown that bees’ immune systems need a variety of pollen sources to stay healthy. This theory does seem to hold water – it is well known that animal species of all sorts benefit from a varied diet. How healthy would you be if you ate only one food all the time?
Monoculture make heavy use of pesticides, exposure to which is implicated in the honeybees’ demise.
6. Erosion is a concern with monoculture. This is because the soil is so lifeless, and because there is no ground cover planted.
The Benefits of Crop Rotation
When crops are rotated, nutrients are replenished. It is recommended that farmers rotate nitrogen-producing crops such as legumes with nitrogen-using crops such as corn. There are other benefits as well.
* Rotated crops produce higher yields.
* The use of agri-chemicals is reduced as plant disease and pest resistance increase.
* Erosion is decreased, especially when cover crops are grown with the main food crop. Farmers can also grow crops on legume sod, the roots of which hold the soil together and produce nutrients as they decay.
Monoculture simply does not occur in nature. That alone ought to give us pause as we consider how best to produce the food that feeds the world.