Good morning to you 🙂
Today’s post discusses organic food. What is it, and why it’s organic. More especially with our lives getting increasingly busier could we grow organic crops ourselves?
A friend and colleague asked me the other day if I could point her in the right direction of places that sold organic fruit and veg to buy. Other than the rather good selection in certain supermarkets (or a German origin), the only other places are either online and pay ridiculously high prices for the privilege of having them delivered to your door or skulk about various other supermarkets in the hope of finding a bunch of carrots or a bag of salad, after which you take them to the till to be horrified at the price.
I did offer one other alternative to my friend – to start growing her own.
Of course being a full time busy executive kind of lady that she is growing her own sounds lovely but not practical.
Or is it?
Her question has made me ponder this seriously. After all when you want to eat right organic food seems lacking in choice, high in cost and sometimes convenient. If we’re going to take our diets seriously, and we’re only rely on supermarkets/local markets we’re not going to keep it up. We’re allowing big corporations to dictate what food we eat when in reality we should be eating what we know is good for us as easily as possible.
Would it be better to create and produce a small growing area where a busy person could tend to a few crops per year knowing that they are getting the best source or nutrients available at some months of the year?
The first obvious solution to this would be to use local enterprises producing and selling local crops to buy, and where possible have them delivered weekly. I’ve used this and it’s fantastic. The variety is good, it’s grown locally where possible and it’s helping not only local businesses but supporting people into work, teaching them vital skills and new trades.
But it’s not organic produce and it’s not always local so if you’re at the supermarket anyway you’ll pick up fruit and veg and job done. What we’re after is to get back to organically produced food. For big business this is at a cost, hence why it gets passed onto the consumer which is fair enough. I don’t dispute the cost if there is reason behind it and I’d like to think in terms of market, the more bought the lower the prices become but that could be years off and we’re running out of time, resources, land, and skills. We’re also getting sicker by the day.
What is Organic?
In the UK it’s pretty simple to know whether you’re eating organic or not. We have a national Charity called the Soil Association founded by farmers, nutritionists and scientists. They managed to get labels put onto all our food that states whether it’s organic.
To get this label the item of food or produce has to be:
Any food product sold as ‘organic’ falls under the EU regulations 834/2007 and 889/2008. This means that the product must have been produced to these regulations and inspected and certified by a registered certification body, such as Soil Association Certification. – Source Soil Association
What do the EU regulations stand for?
Well a lot by the sound if it which was originally derived from the International Federation of Organic Movements which currently has 815 members and associates, in 120 countries, of which the Soil Association is one.
So the Soil Association explains the regulations both for organic farming and how organic animals are reared.
In summary farming must follow the following in order for it’s crops to be labelled organic:
artificial chemical fertilisers are prohibited – instead organic farmers develop a healthy, fertile soil by growing and rotating a mixture of crops, adding organic matter such as compost or manure and using clover to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere
pesticides are severely restricted – instead organic farmers develop nutrient-rich soil to grow strong, healthy crops and encourage wildlife to help control pests and disease
animal welfare is at the heart of the system and a truly free-range life for farm animals is guaranteed
a diversity of crops and animals are raised on the farm and rotated around the farm over several seasons, including fallow periods. This mixed farming approach helps break cycles of pests and disease and builds fertility in the soil
the routine use of drugs, antibiotics and wormers is banned – instead the farmer will use preventative methods, like moving animals to fresh pasture and keeping smaller herd and flock sizes
genetically modified (GM) crops and ingredients are banned – Source: Soil Association
Now I’m no scientist but it doesn’t take a genius to note that the list above is pretty simple and not altogether difficult to achieve really.
Its weight is more heavily towards animal welfare, while ensuring that crops grown are natural with out the use of pesticides. Note it says pesticides are severely restricted and not banned? Strangely enough I couldn’t actually find a list on their website of those pesticides that are allowed in farming. I did managed to find this though:
The five main pesticides used in organic farming are Bt (a bacterial toxin), pyrethrin, rotenone, copper and sulphur. “Fewer than 10% of organic farmers use botanical insecticides on a regular basis, 12% use sulfur, and 7% use copper-based compounds – Source Wikipedia
All the above appear to be either naturally occurring compounds found in plants or insects or are chemical elements that can be found naturally.
So as consumers we can be confidant that anything to do with fruit and veg that has an organic label attached is going to have been grown to strict guidelines. We also know at this point that those guidelines would be easy to implement if we ourselves wanted to grow anything. Which we do because it would be cheaper at the very least.
How to grow organic when you are busy?
At this point if you’re a really busy person but don’t want to pay ridiculous prices, nor stay in the house endlessly for deliveries what could you grow that would provide you the highest yield of fresh tasty fruit/veg with as little amount of time spent growing them as possible?
I think I’ve found a formula!
Busy people haven’t got time to be spending loads of time in their gardens gardening, nor have they got the resources to employ a gardener so whatever is grown needs to fall into strict categories:
- Cost effective
- Low pest/high resistance to pests and disease
- Low maintenance
- High in yield
- High in nutritional value
- Easy to acquire (seeds etc) and plant
It’s a tall order by any stretch of a growers imagination but it’s not altogether impossible.
First of all we need to install a quick but reliable place to grow the organic fruit and veg. Busy people don’t want to necessarily sit and design an area so it needs to be ready to hand.
Square Foot Gardening
Pots, containers, grow bags and more importantly a free standing, raised, bed will enable easy of access and no upkeep.
Secondly, because space will be limited and to get the most out of the area you have to make a decision to do one of two things. Either split the growing space into two areas (pots/raised bed or raised bed/windowsill), or decide on only one and limit your choice of crops to crow.
That confirmed you then need to make the choice of what to grow.
Unlike shops that can bring in anything from anywhere around the world, at any time of the year you can’t. That means you need to concentrate on what can be grown and when but because you’re busy I’ve come up with the list for you.
Some fruit and veg are better in nutritional value than others. The list below are the veggies and fruit that pack the highest amount of vitamins and are easy to grow.
- Leaf Lettuce
That list are the fruit and veggies are the ones we should all be eating every day. They are for want of a better word – super foods!
Three out of the seven listed can be grown in pots, two out of the seven can be grown on a windowsill hence the decision to have a dual growing place.
In a space of just 1.2 meter by 1.2 meter (or 1 sq foot x 4) you can organically grow four of those crops above.
All of the crops would take five minutes to plant, five minutes to water and check for pests and best of all they are all pretty hardy so don’t need babysitting all the time. They will also ensure you are eating fresh from May to December (and over winter for the Spinach and lettuce)
The setting up of the ‘plot’ as we shall call it will take slightly longer to create but as busy people don’t be put off by this because it’s no harder than picking up the right tools for a DIY project. In fact you can even go to that very same DIY shop for all this.
You will need:
- Three pots (one large, one medium, one small)
- 4 pieces of wood 1.2m in length and at least 15cm width
- 4 brackets
- 250 liters of compost
- Plants/seeds as required (not all plants will be available at same time)
- Two canes (or other material)
Cost: Anything between £50 and £175 depending on what plants/wood/compost/pots you use. A lot can be bought cheaply/second hand (including the plants). Even at the top end of the costing scale it works out to £29.16 per month (over the growing period) which is much less than you’d spend on either a gym membership, TV subscription and less than a weekly shop.
Don’t see this as spending – see this as an investment because you’ll get back far more in good quality food, health and time spent outside.
Alternatively if you don’t want to invest any time or much money then change no.2 for four grow bags and add them to garden as necessary.
Decide where you want your raised bed. Make it, fill it up with compost, divide area into four using the canes and add plants.
Of course it’s easy for me to just write this but how practical is it? What kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t actually make this happen?
Well in order to find out I’d really like to offer my help and support to 15 people this year – completely free.
Starting from April and until the end of June I’m offering my time to help and support 15 people in getting the crop area I’ve described above in their garden/balcony/patio etc, all set up.
I will design it for you, give ideas and even help you pick the necessary tools and plants required. I can get the area built for you and even complete the planting, if that is what you wish. I’ll even come back and check the plants for you later on in the season.
I’ll offer as much advice, labour and support as you need to get that patch into a crop growing, high yielding area of productivity to ensure you eat well and enjoy it along the way.
So if you live somewhere I can get too (within reason), I’ll get you set up over the weekends and evenings available mutually before the end of June.
Get in touch now and be one of the 15! Don’t miss out. This is proper good stuff. I want to help you to eat right, live better and enjoy growing crops from this year on-wards.
How to sign up:
Contact me on the FMN Facebook page
Collar me if you see me.
Lets do this – go for it and get in touch 🙂