Organic Gardening Primer

ValleyUU_40aOrganic Gardening is Better for the Climate

Most of our food travels a long distance from the farm to our plate. The average American diet relies heavily on crops grown in barren soils with the use of petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides.

Healthy soils are natural “carbon sinks” – that means they absorb more carbon than they release, and thus protect us from climate change. However, around 3 billion tons of topsoil is eroded from the United States’ croplands each year. In big agribusiness farming, the soil is used more as a medium for holding plants in a vertical position so they can be chemically fertilized. As a result, American farms are suffering from the worst soil erosion in history.

These are some of the reasons that more and more people are flocking to the local, organic food movement. It’s an excellent way to respond to climate change and it’s
better for your health and the environment.

Organic Gardening Is Better for Your Health
It turns out what is most healthful for our climate is also best for our health. Many studies have shown that organically grown food has more minerals and nutrients than food grown with synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Chefs often prefer organic foods in their recipes because they taste better and guests prefer them. The EPA considers 60 percent of all herbicides, 90 percent of all fungicides and 30 percent of all insecticides carcinogenic. The National Academy of Sciences reports that pesticides may cause an extra 4 million cancer cases among Americans.

Organic Gardening Protects Water Quality
The U.S. EPA estimates that pesticides from agriculture have contaminated groundwater in 38 states. Agricultural run-off is also reaching the ocean and affecting sea life. Fertilizer used on Midwest farms is carried down the Mississippi River and emptied into the Gulf of Mexico. The run off is largely responsible for an 8,000 square mile marine dead zone that forms off the coast of each spring. The nitrogen and phosphorus in the fertilizer spurs algae growth, depleting oxygen in the water, and killing off fish. Furthermore, the increased nitrous oxide produced in oxygen depleted waters can elevate in the atmosphere — fueling global warming. Nitrous oxide is a potent greenhouse gas.

Organic Gardening Promotes Biodiversity
Organic gardens are rich with variety, and this means your garden will be more resilient to pest infestation or drought. Monocropping is the practice of planting large plots of land with the same crop year after year, a common big agribusiness practice. This lack of natural diversity of plant life has left the soil lacking in natural minerals and nutrients, and single crops are also much more susceptible to pests, making farmers more reliant on pesticides.

Local organic gardening is an American tradition that is being rediscovered by families, faith communities, schools, and even the White House, to address some of these problems. First Lady Michelle Obama dug up a section of the south lawn of the White House to plant a kitchen garden. This garden now is a source of fresh
produce for the hungry in the neighborhood as well as the first family and White House staff, and has served as powerful example to the country.