Why Grow Naturally?

Why natural: Protect Future Generations, Build Soil, Protect Water Quality, Save Energy, Reduce Health Risk, Protect Farm Workers, Help Family Farms, Support a True Economy, Promote Biodiversity, Great Taste

Pesticides and herbicides are poisons designed to kill living organisms. Agricultural chemicals may not be the sole cause of cancer and other diseases, but there is plenty of evidence of their danger (see “Reduce Health Risk” and “Protect Farm Workers,” below). And there is no good reason not to eliminate them from our food production if it’s possible.  This is why many of the synthetic substances used in the 1960’s and 1970’s have been banned and why more are now listed for prohibition. natural growers don’t want to participate in a system that generates, transports and distributes dangerous materials that inevitably end up in everyone’s air and water. They want to make the environment a safer one for workers, neighbors, and consumers.  We buy and grow natural foods not simply for our own sake, but because of concerns outside our own personal circle.

Many new-generation natural growers are attracted to non-chemical farming because it promotes creativity and reestablishes agriculture as an art, not merely a form of manufacturing.  One reason that we become farmers is that we want to relish our relationship with nature, the one in which the land provides our nourishment, and in return we nurture and protect the land. As consumers, we support this partnership every time we buy a product grown without chemicals. natural practices build rich soil, promote clean water and air, reduce energy consumption and waste, reduce disease risk and save tax payers money, to name a few benefits.

Please click on any topic below for more facts about growing naturally vs. conventional farming: (borrowed with permission from nofavt.org)

Protect Future Generations

Children receive four times the exposure than an adult to at least eight widely used cancer-causing pesticides in food. The food choice you make now will impact your child’s health in the future.

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Build Soil

The Soil Conservation Service estimates that more than three billion tons of topsoil are eroded from the United States croplands each year. That means soil is eroding seven times faster than it is built up naturally. Soil is the foundation of the food chain in natural farming. But in conventional 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.

Did you Know? It takes approximately 3,000 years for nature to produce 6 inches of topsoil. Every 28 years, 1 inch of topsoil is lost as a result of current farming practices. naturally biointensive farming can produce 6 inches of topsoil in as little as 50 years-60 times faster than the rate in nature. (Source: Maine natural Farmer & Gardener, 1999, in “Our food, our future,” by Donella H. Meadows, in natural Gardening, September/October 2000)

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Protect Water Quality

Water makes up two-third of our body mass and covers three-fourths of the planet. Despite its importance, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates pesticides (some cancer causing) contaminate the ground water in 38 states, polluting the primary source of drinking water for more than half the country’s population.

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Save Energy

American farms have changed drastically in the last three generations, from the family based small businesses dependent on human energy to large scale factory farms highly dependent on fossil fuels. Modern farming uses more petroleum than any other single industry, consuming 12 percent of the country’s total energy supply. More energy is now used to produce synthetic fertilizers than to till, cultivate, and harvest all the crops in the United States. natural farming is still mainly based on labor-intensive practices such as weeding by hand and using green manures and crop covers rather than synthetic inputs. naturally grown produce also tends to travel a shorter distance from the farm to your plate.

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Reduce Health Risk

Many pesticides approved for use by the EPA were registered before extensive research linking these chemicals to cancer and other diseases had been established. Now the EPA considers that 60 percent of all herbicides, 90 percent of all fungicides and 30 percent of all insecticides are carcinogenic. A 1987 National Academy of Sciences report estimated that pesticides might cause an extra 1.4 million cancer cases among Americans over their lifetimes. The bottom line is that pesticides are poisons designed to kill living organisms, and can also be harmful to humans. In addition to cancer, pesticides are implicated in birth defects, nerve damage and genetic mutation.

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Protect Farm Workers

A Natural Cancer Institute study found that farmers exposed to herbicides had a greater risk, by a factor of six, than non-farmers of contracting cancer. In California, reported pesticide poisonings among farm workers have risen an average of 14 percent a year since 1973, and doubled between 1975 and 1985. Field workers suffer the highest rates of occupational illness in the state. Farm worker health also is a serious problem in developing nations, where pesticide use can be poorly regulated. An estimated 1 million people are poisoned annually by pesticides.  Several of the pesticides banned from use in the United States are still manufactured here for export to other countries.

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Help Family Farms

Although more and more large scale farms are making the conversion to natural practices, most natural farms are small independently owned and operated family farms of less than 100 acres. It’s estimated that the United States has lost more than 650,000 family farms in the past decade. And with the US Department of Agriculture predicting that half of this country’s farm production will come from 1 percent of farms by the year 2000, natural farming could become one of the few hopes left for family farms.

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Support a True Economy

Although natural foods might seem more expensive than conventional foods, conventional food prices do not reflect hidden cost borne by taxpayers, including nearly $74 billion in federal subsidies in 1988. Other hidden costs include pesticide regulation and testing, hazardous waste disposal and clean up, and environmental damage.

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Promote Biodiversity

Mono cropping is the practice of planting large plots of land with the same crop year after year. While this approach tripled farm production between 1950 and 1970, the lack of natural diversity of plant life has left the soil lacking in natural minerals and nutrients. To replace the nutrients, chemical fertilizers are used, often in increasing amounts.

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Great Taste

There’s a good reason many chefs use naturally grown foods in their recipes. They taste better. natural farming starts with the nutrients of the soil which eventually leads to the nourishment of the plant and ultimately our palates.

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natural Times, Spring 1992

Excerpted from an article by Sylvia Tawse

Alfalfa’s Markets, Boulder, CO