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Permaculture Not Organic?  RSS feed

 
Jared Stanley
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I was listening to Paul's Podcast with Brandon, the Farmstead Meatsmith. In it, he says "I do not care for organic, I think organic is a very low standard." He says that a lot of permaculture is beyond organic and that organic is disgusting.

The rest of the conversation led me to believe that it was perhaps more of the concept of organic labeling than it was the concept of "growing without chemicals", if you will.

Can anyone elaborate more about what Paul might have been speaking to? It really threw me for a loop - I went from listening to a podcast where Paul says he wouldn't use cardboard because of the way the paper is processed and the glue involved (I believe the official word is "gick"), but then this podcast about organic being a low standard.

Really I think there is a "missing link" that I am not putting together. Perhaps my definition of organic is warped.

If a local homesteader were to tell me there are organic, my 'big picture' thought is that they simply do not use chemicals, herbicides, pesticides, etc. Since I would have expected Paul to call those things 'gick' - I am at a loss.

What am I missing or misunderstanding?
 
Serge Leblanc
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From what I got out of those comments...
"Organic" as in no chemicals but still a system of long rows of one single crop.
Permaculture / polyculture offers better than "organic" yields and quality product, leaving a more natural footprint in it's wake.
 
Ken Peavey
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While organic is 'chem free' the methods are still very similar to industrial agriculture. Inputs are applied the the soil, there are sprays for bugs-some are even effective. Irrigation serves the needs of the plants. Monocrops are commonplace. NOP (National Organic Plan) rules allow for a wide list of approved inputs. Although natural in origin, plenty of these are just as heavily processed and energy intensive as the chemical inputs.
Permaculture practices remove the need for these inputs. Why spray for bugs when the polyculture makes it impossible for a large population of harmful bugs to develop and beneficial insects can naturally keep the bug population in control? Depleting aquifers for irrigation is not needed if the soil will hold vast amounts of water because it is covered like the floor of a forest and rich in humus.
Part of what separates permaculture from organic is the mimicry of nature. Organic is a step in the right direction, but it does not address many of the problems of modern agriculture. It still looks to serving the needs of the crop, with little regard for the impact the crop and the methods have on the environment. If you can plow up a field, set up a fence, bring in inputs from all around the globe, raise a single cultivar, and do it all in the absence of interaction with the environment on the other side of the fence, have you really made a difference?
 
Dale Hodgins
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edit--- Ken got in there 8 seconds ahead of me ----- The term "Certified Organic", has come to mean big agriculture following minimum standards while following certain guidelines. Most of the rules are "don'ts". Don't use herbicides, don't spray roundup ... Best practices are not what these rules are about. You can burn a gallon of gas for every pound of food produced and still certify. The cost of inspections and red tape associated have kept many small growers out of the game. I see it as sort of a trade mark, meant to limit competition. Many totally unsustainable practices are accepted. I consider it a form of green-washing.
 
Josef Theisen
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Although he never actually used the term, the concept of "organic" came from the writings of Sir Albert Howard, an englishman who studied agriculture in India in the 1800's. The concept is really simple. Focus on the health of the soil and everything else falls into place. Healthy soil produces healthy plants which produces healthy people. Howard's writing inspired a generation of pioneers who used the term "organic" to describe their composting and growing practices. Notably among them was J.I. Rodale, who started organic gardening and farming magazine in 1942, leading to widespread use of the term.

Once organically grown produce found a demand, the need arose for a specific set of standards to define what organic actually means. Today's USDA Organic certification is a specific set of requirements that must be met in order to label food as organic. Like all standards, it was created through a political process that inevitably requires compromise. For instance, certain pesticides such as neem oil and pyrethrins can be used on organic farms event though they kill beneficial insects and throw the natural order out of balance. The guidelines for using them must be met, as far as timing of applications and such, and records must be kept according to the rules. What I think of as the spirit of organic suggests that one care for the earth, but the organic certification process has no such requirement. Today's "organic" is focused on specific technical details of the growing process and falls short on Howard's ideals. It is still better than nothing, and it is the only label in the US today that requires food to be non-GMO, but it is far from perfect.

Permaculture, on the other hand, is still in an idealistic, youthful stage that has not been subject to compromise. It is also much bigger in scope than organic as it encompasses all aspects of human existance, not just growing food. I agree that Permaculture has the potential to go far beyond organic, but it is up to us to make it happen.
 
Jared Stanley
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Location: Toomsuba, MS, 8a, 54" annual rainfall
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Thank you all for the comments. I understand the differentiation that was being made now, and agree.
 
wayne stephen
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Beyond Organic is a term that has been used to describe a less is more equation . Less than ideal with a greater outcome . Salatin uses nonorganic grain and soybean in his chicken feed - the pasture feeding and manure / fly control being the plus . Many permaculturalists do not worry too much about the sources of manure and other biomass being applied to their projects - the covering of soil and bioremediation being a plus. Hence , less than organic synergizes into beyond organic ?
 
Cj Sloane
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geoff lawton feels the same way that Paul does about "organic." He described a huge "organic" farm in California that had acres of mono cropped carrots and illegal immigrants laying on devices that let them roll over the carrots and pick the weeds instead of spraying toxic gick. Yes, it's a slight step up from spraying toxic gick (slightly better "earth care" 1st ethic) but it's not "people care" (2nd ethic).

It doesn't mimic nature either.
 
Landon Sunrich
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Cj Verde wrote:He described a huge "organic" farm in California that had acres of mono cropped carrots and illegal immigrants laying on devices that let them roll over the carrots and pick the weeds instead of spraying toxic gick. Yes, it's a slight step up from spraying toxic gick (slightly better "earth care" 1st ethic) but it's not "people care" (2nd ethic).


Man I WISH we'd been able to make our 'super sleigh' work in time that I could just lie around gabbing with friends while we weeded and thinned carrots. It's really not that bad - not if you're being paid well enough. Of course there are the questions of inputs and scale. But people care? It's really not that bad - its just work.

edit: edited for word choice, spelling, emphasis, and aesthetics
 
Cj Sloane
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Landon Sunrich wrote:
Man I WISH we'd been able to make our 'super sleigh' work in time that I could just lie around gabbing with friends while we weeded and thinned carrots. It's really not that bad - not if you're being paid well enough. Of course there are the questions of inputs and scale. But people care? It's really not that bad - its just work.


My impression is that they are not laying around gabbing with friends while weeding. They are lying down on a dolly, staring straight down and weeding, probably for 8 hours and probably not being paid very well. Illegal workers aren't generally well cared for so I'm still thinking it violates the 2nd ethic.
 
Cj Sloane
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100 acres of organic carrots has to violate the first ethic multiple times. Tilling, monocropping, off-site inputs...
 
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