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'Beyond Organic' what does that mean to you?  RSS feed

 
Judith Browning
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I have a hard time with this one...I think I get it...I think our life and our land are showing the results of that synergy and balance. But when on the spot with a short answer, plain old Organic guidelines are easier for me to spit out.
So, I wondered if others could share their thoughts.
 
Bob Dobbs
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I think that "beyond organic" would move past such things as using 'organic' fertilizers and pesticides in lieu of chemical substitutes, and move toward manufacturing your own products that ensure the complete health of not only the plants, but the land and the people living on it.

A slightly relevant anecdote would be: I currently have a rare cacti collection, many many endangered species. Upon moving to my new location, I started getting a strange rot that I performed a culture slide on and ID as fusarium oxysporum. I was freaking out knowing that this pathogen would decimate my collection in a few days with no action. I even considered using strong chemical fungicides due to my soft-hearted overprotective-ness toward my cacti. Instead, I did a bit of research, put some natto in a blender with some water for the bacillus subtilis, and sprayed the decoction minus soya particles on the plants. It seems to be working.

The "beyond organic" solution to the above problem would be to encourage bacillus subtilis growth in my compost pile and the soil used to the point that the pathogen is food for the soil.
 
John Polk
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While believing that "organic" is far better than ChemAg, it still leaves a lot to be desired, as far as healing the planet.

Typical organic farms still plow/till multiple times per year.
Each of these 'disturbances' of the soil causes a loss to the Soil Food Web (SFW)
At a bare minimum, the soil should be reinocculated/treated to help restore that loss after each disturbance.

Typical organic farms have blocks of corn, rows of lettuce, squash, etc, etc.
Still, basically patches of monoculture.
A true polyculture, with hundreds of species intermingled, will help balance the SFW.
Each plant family has a symbiotic relation with its neighbors. Creates a more balanced environment.
This helps minimize pest and disease pressures, thus reducing 'treatment' needs.

Simply, not spraying poisons, and adding organic matter is just not enough to improve the soil.
Bringing the soil to a better balance improves the soil rather than just 'not damaging' it.

While I do not practice biodynamics, I still see it as being "beyond organics".
I can see the benefits of following moon cycles, but beyond that, I have my doubts.
Animals (including humans and pests) all seem to be affected by the moon, I see no reason why this couldn't apply to plants as well.


 
Kris Minto
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Location: Ottawa, Canada -- Zone 4b/5a
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Beyond organic to me is what you would find in nature. Example: a very well establish forest garden/food forest where it will provided food without any input.

Kris
 
Joe Moore
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Location: Breckenridge, CO
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I would have to agree with John Polk. Organic Ag is mostly degenerative. It can still include flying planes to spray various things in plants. Things that we may not want to consume, and the SFW would also like to avoid.

Organic Ag (to me) still means:
Strange sprays (just because it isn't a petro chem based product, doesn't mean that it is healthful)
Large scale nutrient run off
Soil erosion
Far too much tilling
Top Soil loss
Unecessary resource use
etc etc etc

Going beyond organic, to me, means crossing a few of the nastier aspects of Organic Ag off the list, and keeping in mind the planet and people aspect of PC.

All that said, there is still value in the Org Ag movement... they seem to be putting up the biggest fight against our future evil overlords monsanto, dupont and friends.
 
Mateo Chester
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Location: Zone 4b
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This very forum. I see IT as beyond organic. Interconnecting a global web of like-minded people who truly love this earth is beyond organic. Sharing real life solutions on a daily basis with complete strangers goes way beyond organic to me. It gets to the heart of who we are. Social butterfly's. And I like it.
 
Jamie Heaney
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Location: Southern Maine
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Discussing 'beyond organic' would require a fairly solid definition and practice of what organic is, and there in lies the problem. The word, along with the idea, has been hijacked a long time ago by industry, politics and market. It is not unlike the word 'natural'... absolutely meaningless in today's culture.
 
Paulo Bessa
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Completey agree with every single comment above.

Organic is necessary and a very good step forward but not enough, and we must reinforce this.

Organic still damages the land and might be unsustainable, and from an economic point of view unsustainable too (because economics run the world so far).

Integrating permaculture principles, such as mulching, polycultures or at least rows of different species with wildlife promoting species, all these simple steps should be encouraged within the organic movement.

Also growing more perennials (like in a forest garden). Maybe a slow start but surely sustainable, feeding to the masses, and sustainable, both naturally and economically. Perennials are also much less affected by climatic hardships.
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Jamie Heaney wrote:Discussing 'beyond organic' would require a fairly solid definition and practice of what organic is, and there in lies the problem. The word, along with the idea, has been hijacked a long time ago by industry, politics and market. It is not unlike the word 'natural'... absolutely meaningless in today's culture.


This is where I am having a problem, I think...my thoughts about organic have been inspired by sir Albert Howard/Wendell Berry type folks and the fairly recent (for someone my age) takeover of the idea and making it a marketing ploy is a huge disappointment and distraction moving it away from a whole life philosophy.
I do see that Permaculture is leading the way 'beyond organic' .
And, I too, agree with all of the above posts nicely expressed.
 
John Polk
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Yes, I agree. "Organic" used to mean a lot more than it does today.

At one point, "organic" was what we were all striving for.
Today, it is just the first step along a lengthy path - the elimination of using poisons.

There is so much more that needs to be considered to achieve a balanced ecosystem.

 
Hanley Kale-Grinder
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There are so many levels of this. Forest gardening and foraging are probably the "best". However, the produce we output from our organically fertilized, EM/compost inoculated, no spray, heavily tilled spin plots is pretty good imo. Tilling controls weeds and preps the soil for an earthway seeder. Without it I highly doubt we could compete with other CSAs/market farmers, let alone Whole Foods. The end result for the soil is 8 inches of beautifully tilled soil and compaction under that. There is no erosion or run off in our systems.
 
Joe Moore
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Location: Breckenridge, CO
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Hanley, Interesting. How are you mitigating run off or top soil loss? Do you have a basin shaped garden?
 
Michael Forest
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Once you define a process, a functional application or approach as applicable to some kind of intended outcome, it becomes a product of our consumer market economy. In other words any term which has the potential for increasing profitability on a broad level will become co-opted by the system. (See below). Marketing has become a form of psychology lobbying. It's a tactic to inundate consumers with of a myriad of meanings so that anything can mean anything. Once in the mainstream any root intent becomes diluted or lost. Culturally,everything has to be "coined" in order to be talked about in any public discourse: being green (oil companies), saving the environment, organic, natural - having no viable cultural meaning. Even Ecoforestry (which is a primary focus of mine) is being usurped. Once permaculture reaches a certain level ($$) of public awareness it will be co-opted.

So what can Beyond Organic mean so that it remains vital,fruitful and maintains useful intent? Perhaps keeping/developing complex multilayer meaning(s). This does go against the "keep it simple stupid" principle which is in vogue. When one is "dealing with Nature", in totality, it is a complex interaction. Wendell Berry is one of the best spokesmen regarding this understanding. I see in his writings a trilogy approach: there's you, the land, and the community. All three need to be considered as an interactive whole, with the land as the primary guide and not thought of as primarily a resource. Whatever Beyond Organic becomes pointing,showing, seeing, touching,tasting may be the best way to explain it...........


----------------------- This is excerpted from:
http://www.science20.com/challenging_nature/what_meaning_organic_and_inorganic_food-676

Chemists now use the word organic to describe all complex, carbon-based molecules—whether or not they are actually products of an organism or products of laboratory synthesis. But many educated people in Western countries think that only some crops and cows are organic, while all others are not. How can one simple word -- organic -- have such different meanings?........

This movement first acquired the moniker organic in 1942, when J. I. Rodale began publication in America of Organic Farming&Gardening, a magazine still in circulation today.

According to Rodale and his acolytes, products created by—and processes carried out by—living things are fundamentally different from lab-based processes and lab-created products. The resurrection of this prescientific, vitalistic notion of organic essentialism did not make sense to scientists who understood that every biological process is fundamentally a chemical process. In fact, all food, by definition, is composed of organic chemicals.

As a result, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) refused to recognize organic food as distinguishable in any way from nonorganic food.

The “organic food” movement was not taken seriously by U.S. government agencies until 1990, when lobbyists convinced Congress to mandate the establishment of a certification process for organic foods. Twelve years later, organic farmers finally obtained rules they wanted to prevent impostors from siphoning off market share. But as the USDA emphasizes, the "basis of these standards is on process, not product."

In other words, organic food is defined not by any material substance in the food itself, but instead by the "holistic" methods used on organic farms. Furthermore, the physical attributes of the product and any effects it might have on environment or health are explicitly excluded from U.S., European, and international definitions.

The implicit, unproven assumption is that organic agriculture is -- by its very nature -- better for the environment than so-called conventional farming. The European Commission states as a matter of fact that "organic farmers use a range of techniques that help sustain ecosystems and reduce pollution." Yet, according to self-imposed organic rules, genetic modification in the laboratory is strictly forbidden, even if its purpose is to reduce an animal's negative impact on the environment. (Canadian scientists have already engineered pigs to secrete an enzyme in their saliva that reduces the polluting phosphorous content of their manure by up to 75%.) On the other hand, spontaneous mutations caused by deep-space cosmic rays are always deemed acceptable -- without any testing -- since they occur "naturally."

In reality, laboratory scientists can make subtle and precise changes to an organism's DNA sequence, while high-energy cosmic rays can break chromosomes into pieces that reattach randomly and sometimes create genes that didn't previously exist.

Even more than a concern for the environment, organic producers and consumers are driven by faith in the presumed health benefits of their holistically produced food. In The Future of Food, Canadian farmer Marc Loiselle explains, “the underpinning of my conversion to organic food is not so much the economic point, it’s the health point, to protect my health, to protect my family’s health and my neighbors’.”

Irrespective of whether they buy into the health rhetoric or not, western consumers have been led to believe that organic farmers are never allowed to use toxic chemical pesticides. In fact, this carefully cultivated beliefs is simply false. Pyrethrin (with the formula C21H28O3) is one of several common toxic chemicals sprayed onto fruit trees by organic farmers (even on the day of harvesting); another allowed chemical is rotenone (C23H22O6), a potent neurotoxin, long used to kill fish, and recently linked to Parkinson's disease {Betarbet, 2000 #1258}.

How can organic farmers justify the use of these chemical pesticides? the answer comes from the delusion that substances produced by living organisms are not really chemicals. Since pyrethrin is extracted from chrysanthemums and rotenone comes from a native Indian vine, they are deemed organic instead.

However, the most potent toxins known to humankind, including ricin and strychnine, are all natural and organic. In fact, all currently used pesticides -- both natural and synthetic -- dissipate quickly and pose a miniscule risk to consumers. As the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences explains,
while pesticides may be found in many products, the levels at which they are present fall far below the levels known to not cause any health effects. The fact that they are found at all is only due to the significant advances in analytical chemistry. The tests are now so sensitive that the detection level that can be easily reached is equivalent to detecting one teaspoon of salt in one million gallons of water. Levels even lower than that can sometimes be detected.
 
Walter Jeffries
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There are a lot of things that can make one "beyond Organic" in practices. Certified Organic is a pretty low standard. It does not mean what many people think.

I have a cousin that raises chickens and sells organic eggs and chicken. He has 50,000 chickens each in two 100' long steel buildings. The chickens are "Organic" because he feeds them Organic feed and doesn't use non-approved antibiotics. They are not organic in the way that consumers thing of Organic or organic. They have no room to roam although they are "free-range" (not in cages). They never see the sunlight. They never graze on pasture. They never get to chase insects or eat grasses and other forages. These are not happy chickens.

Meanwhile our farm is organic but not Certified Organic. We have been organic (lower case 'o') long before the USDA stole the term Organic with their certification program. We are beyond Organic. We don't just not feed antibiotics, pesticides, insecticides, etc but our livestock graze out on our pastures and socialize as they should be able to do. There is a lot more to organic than Certified Organic.

Yes, there are some good people who do Organic the way it should be. Unfortunately all too much of the government "Certified Organic" has been taken over by Big Biz and the term abused.
 
Hanley Kale-Grinder
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Joe Moore wrote:Hanley, Interesting. How are you mitigating run off or top soil loss? Do you have a basin shaped garden?


We "farm" 10 large backyards. The longest beds used are only 60' or so and everything is on drip tape. There isn't anywhere for the soil to erode to. All of the plots are on sandy loam ancient lake bed, or old terraced hillside plots. We have never had rich black soil to begin with. We fertilize with organic NPK, use compost and EM, and do some cover cropping. It seems to grow pretty nice veggies.
 
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree
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To me, this photo illustrates pretty well the difference between 'organic' and 'permaculture'.



This is my other half planting pumpkins and various other veggies in rows on a recently tilled patch of ground. He's using manure to fertilise and mulch to reduce evapotation and keep weeds at bay. I think it counts as pretty good 'organic' practice, but there's not much permie about it.

If you look at the bigger picture though, you begin to see how that 'organic veggie patch' fits into a wider, more permaculture-esque, perspective.

The veggie garden is within a walled grassy paddock on the edge of the forest. The grass is grazed by a donkey several times a year, which feeds the donkey and keeps the grass under control to reduce risk of fire. The donkey is used for hauling timber out of the forest, among other things. There is a well in the paddock which is used to supply water to either the donkey or the veg garden. There are grape-vines growing around the well and along a central wall. Grazing is timed to ensure that the donkey doesn't eat them all. Manure from the donkey is collected and used on the vegetable garden. Dotted around the paddock are around twenty olive trees which supply both eating olives and oil, most of which used in the kitchen but some is turned into soap. They also supply shade for the donkey and the vegetable garden. Trimmings from the trees are used as mulch, firewood or craft projects, and waste from the pressed olives is spread over mulched areas. The wall is to keep wild boar from raiding the veggie garden. The boar are hunted by locals as a valued food source. The pumpkins are of three types, each a different species. They will not cross-pollinate so the seeds will be 'pure'. We grow a different selection on the main farm, which is too far away for cross-contamination, so they will be 'pure' too.

So to me, permaculture involves a much wider view and seeing things in a much more system-oriented way.
 
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