Thursday, 12 May 2016

Organic: Is it the future of farming?

For the earth that witnesses a rapidly increasing population, food production in the ‘organic way’ might offer a solution, but partly. There’s a term that is currently trending big- ‘agricultural sustainability’. While many might not really decipher what it has got to do with organic food production, Dr. John E. Ikerd at the University of Missouri, rightly pointed out that “… a sustainable agriculture must be all three- ecologically sound, economically and socially responsible”.  Only if the three are in harmony, there can be sustainability, which will eventually make organic farming possible. 

When it all began

Whether modern farming practices or what we say going the ‘organic’ way will prove fruitful than the traditional methods employed is still a debate. The origin of this form of agriculture can be traced back to Britain of the 1940s. For those who initiated this practice were more concerned about the soil and ways of improving its fertility and stability. From restoring organic matter to preventing the use of pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers, this novel agricultural pattern started getting attention from all. With the passage of time, people have been more concerned with social justice, animal welfare, biodiversity and such; all of which have naturally given an impetus to the organic movement.

A story of a happy family

If you take the example of the Everett family based in California, they have begun farming organically long time back. All the produces, which included organically raised pastured eggs, apples, persimmons, flowers have not only served the likes of many, but have also earned them appreciation. Since they rely on the hired on-farm managers who are trained professionals, tending the crops, livestock and orchards is naturally more advanced. As Rich Everett rightly says, “The economic viability of organic farming just keeps getting better and better.”

The Struggle in India

In India, organic farming started a little about seven years back. As much as the benefits, there are downsides to organic farming too. On the one hand, farmers following this method stay away from mono cultures, where crops are put in single-species plots. Instead, crop rotations and mixed planting prove worthwhile for the soil and environment.

On the other hand, many Indian farmers have taken to the conventional farming methods for an array of reasons. Firstly, a premium of 10-20% can be earned by putting up sales of organic products abroad. Secondly, fertilizers’ and pesticides’ prices have escalated to a point where farmers need to resort to loans for purchasing modified and expensive seed varieties. Naturally, that increases the debt, the burden of which often pushes many to take to suicides. Thirdly, effects of India’s green revolution are too detrimental. Excessive use of chemicals has taken a serious toll on the land quality and produces are also unsafe for consumption.

Leaving the critics’ arguments, the future can support organic farming if people are well versed with the cultivation practices’ know how. The awareness is what is missing, at least in most of India. Widespread marketing or conveying the betterment that comes with the production of organic food should begin. This is largely because small farmers will be greatly benefited using this practice, as per organic agriculturalists. With the cattle that they have and biomass recycled at the farm level, the foundation for organic farming is built. It is only then that the challenge of this farming begins. 

One can only hope that the next generation of farmers, who will take the organic route will get hands-on training and learn and also enjoy organic farming.

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