Continuing my thoughts on what we are, and why…
We are chemical-free.
In our effort to farm as naturally and sustainably as possible, we avoid using chemicals. We never use pesticides, herbicides or any other poisons on our food. We make our own compost and do not use synthetic fertilizers.
Our reasons for not using posions on food should be self-evident. But many folks around here find it baffling, even though the practices of spraying and dusting food with poisons has only been around for a few decades, while growing food without poisons has been the norm for thousands of years.
Sometimes when I find insect damage on our plants or when I’ve been weeding or eliminating bugs by hand for hours, I think of how easily I could address the situation with a little poison. But I’m never seriously tempted to do it. We are growing food after all.
The use of pesticides and herbicides has had tremendous negative consequences to our food supply. Along with the thousands of other chemicals we’ve introduced into our bodies and food sources, they contribute to the increasing rates of cancer in this country and elsewhere. It is almost literally insane to eat food that has been exposed to poison, when with a little effort one can grow delicious healthy food without it.
There is no reason to elaborate on the negative health consequences of eating poison. The chemical manufacturers insist that their poisons are safe for humans, but looking around at the American public and listening to the testimonies of those who have rejected chemical-based foods for natural foods tells a different story.
Poisons also destroy the natural harmony of an ecosystem. When we first began trying to rehabilitate this farm from decades of intensive chemical agriculture, it was shocking how little life there was here. There were few birds, no bats, few earthworms, no lightning bugs. We tried to start a garden on part of an old tobacco field and could get nothing to grow there. The chemicals had just sucked the life and vitality out the place. Like a drug addict needing a fix, the only way we could’ve grown anything was to reapply the chemicals which had done the damage. We presevered. We tended the soil naturally. We applied compost. We allowed the natural balance of good and “bad” insects to return. Now our farm teems with life of every kind and the formerly dead zones are some of our best gardens.
Poisons kill indiscriminately. They don’t distinguish between beneficial insects and harmful insects. We found that by controlling the harmful insects by hand, giving nature a chance to bring things back into balance, within a couple of years we did not have any serious problem with insects any more.
We don’t use synthetic nitrate fertilizers on this farm. That one really stumps many of our friends and neighbors. Someone even recently asked me whether it was possible to feed the world without using such fertilizers. While heavy doses of such petroleum-based fertilizers may increase yields, the benefit is only temporary. Natural fertilization, with manure and compost, returns the full scale of nutrients to the soil, while synthetic fertilizers deliver only nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Thus foods grown using synthetic fertilizers are less nutritious than those using natural fertilization. Perhaps most importantly the use of such fertilizers is unsustainable. Despite how we behave, our supply of fossil fuel is finite. It will run out. Before it does, it will become very expensive. How then will these industrial mega-farms fertilize? What will happen the the people who have come to depend upon those farms, rather than growing their own gardens?
To say everything that could be said in explanation of why we farm chemical free would change this from a blog post to a book. So I’ll stop there and end by saying that as people who love our farm and care for the health of those who it sustains, we choose not to poison it with chemicals.
We wouldn’t have it any other way.