Tag Archives: organic

Trying to answer my question about GO going

I still cannot imagine GO without a garden. Part of my attachment to the gardens is personal; going there literally did change my life and gave me many extra years.

I first went to Ryton to visit the café which was in a wooden shed at the back of the shop. Then I found the gardens and the organic growing stuff. I went back many times and the gardens were always a place to see stuff growing, understand how brassica collars worked, learn the best way to deter slugs and importantly how to make compost. Seeing it, touching it, smelling it was a vital part of the experience.

So, back to the question, I do not think that GO should, well go. There certainly needs to be a ‘root and branch’ overhaul of everything starting with a concerted publicity campaign to get more visitors to the garden. The next is real consultation with members about the way forward. That means being honest and open, not just trying to justify the decisions taken by council, in secret, behind closed doors

There are rumours of a £1.2 million hole in the pension fund. Not sure how that has come about but if that is the main reason to sell then the decision verges on insanity. There are other ways to raise money which could include selling SOME the land or developing SOME in different ways that retains the bulk of the gardens. There are also other ways to raise money but that means being creative and asking for help.

Again, I make this plea to GO, please talk to us! You keep saying there are 20,000 members so why are you ignoring such a valuable resource? There is no need to waste precious funds on expensive PR companies to argue your case all you need to do is engage with members.

And PLEASE, PLEASE postpone the sale until we have had a chance to talk about all possible options.

Saving Ryton Organic Gardens

It was very distressing to hear that Garden organic is selling Ryton gardens. I first went there nearly 40 years ago when I was recovering from a life changing illness. I decided to grow organic food and have never looked back. I strongly believe that ‘being organic’ and eating good food has helped me to survive and confounded the doctors who cannot understand why I am still here! There will be many similar stories.

The big question is how much will it take to save Ryton? There are rumours of £1.2m hole in the pension fund. They keep saying they are considering all options so why the rush to sell? There must be a way of saving the place.

Please sign the petition to halt the sale

Why organic? A personal response

Over the 20 years or so that I have been an organic grower I have been asked why organic; what is so special about organic gardening. There is not an easy one sentence answer but I will try to explain.

The first answer is that I took a decision about what I wanted to eat and that ruled out food with pesticide residues. Although the government assure us it is perfectly safe to eat food grown with pesticides there is growing evidence that the daily ingestion of small amounts of chemical poisons has an effect. A study at the University of Rochester showed that a combination of two common pesticides caused effects like Parkinson’s disease when fed to lab mice at residue levels.  There is other research but it is always challenged by the agrochemical companies and often suppressed by governments but it can be found.

Is organic food better for you? My answer is definitely! The University of Newcastle proved that organic milk contained higher levels of essential nutrients. There have been other reports saying the same but the UK government still says there is no difference.

In terms of sustainability organic has to be the only way to grow food. Conventional growing relies on big inputs of chemically produced fertilizer and pesticides. That means using oil and gas to produce the artificial aids, or props, that underpin modern agriculture. Even the experts are saying we are running out of oil so we need to find other ways to grow food. Add to that the huge amounts of CO2 produced by using fossil fuels and it is obvious that we cannot continue as we are.

The other big issue is food security. We have become used to a lifestyle that includes being able to buy any food at any time of the year. That means that we not only import food from around the world, often by air, but that we depend on an infrastructure of mass storage and delivery. There is increasing awareness about food miles and the costly supermarket distribution systems but there is no wringing of hands and no alternative suggested apart from the UK eat local idea which does not address the other issues of chemically produced food. And even local food can travel a long distance before it reaches the supermarket shelves.

The current system has become so accepted and so powerful that it has erased memories of how things used to be. Within a generation we have stopped eating seasonal produce and become hooked on the goodies in the over lit enticing atmosphere of the local superstore. We CAN produce a lot more food in the UK but it means small changes to our lifestyles.

So, that is why I choose to grow organic food and why I like buy it in preference to the other stuff. It is not a ‘lifestyle choice’ but just common sense. I would also argue that anybody remotely interested in sustainability should be doing the same. I would argue that it is no use using low energy light bulbs but at the same time supporting a food system that is wasteful and unsustainable.

Why we need Garden Organic

For many years I have supported Garden Organic (formally HDRA.) At first they were the only organisation saying anything about organic gardening. Buying organic food was not easy and anybody gardening organically was seen as a little bit eccentric or a complete crank!

Times changed and organics became mainstream. Some of the old timers berated the fact that organic growing was now considered to be ‘cool’ or ‘trendy’ as my generation used to say. They longed for the good old days when everything was done on shoestring and being organic was akin to colonising the American West.

If we are to survive the nest few years then we need to convert to sustainable food production on a massive scale and that mean growing organically. More than ever we need an organisation to promote and encourage organic gardening.

Like many charities the economic downturn has hit them hard. The recent announcement of a GO partnership with a commercial garden centre chain sent shock waves through the organic gardening community and resulted in various scare stories that GO is about to, well go. Personally I just do not believe that will happen and will continue to support them in any way I can and I  appeal to anybody who is interested in organic gardening to join Garden Organic.  Follow this link.

Can I just add that I have no connection with GO apart from being a member and writing the occasional piece for the member’s magazine, The Organic Way.

Success and failure, another gardening year

It has been a mild and gentle autumn which means plants have been growing well including the weeds. We got the planning right this year and sowed winter salad crops in September. The result is a supply of fresh cut and come again leaves from the polytunnel. There are also over wintering hearted lettuce that look the best ever. The winter lettuce varieties we use are Erika, Valdor, Winter Density and new this year  Winter Gem (Vaila.)

As an experiment there are also a row of carrots in the tunnel. They germinated well but remain very small and I doubt they will come to much. The same happened to the spinach (Giant Winter) it is there but small.

We had looked forward to a huge crop of sweet corn this year but the warm damp weather caused most of the cobs to rot on the plants. The leeks (Musselburgh) have a lot of rust on the leaves but it does not seem to be affecting the harvest. This was yet another season of moulds and most of the autumn fruiting raspberries (Autumn Bliss) rotted on the vines.

In the rest of the garden the Brussels Sprouts are cropping well and since the first real frost they are sweet and delicious. In the same bed is purple spouting which also looks good. The bed is kept covered with enviromesh not because there are any cabbage white butterflies around to lay eggs but to keep the pheasants off as they totally destroyed the spouting earlier this year.

Talking of  cabbage whites some cabbage plants were transplanted into a bed with free space and not covered. After a few days they were attacked by caterpillars (worms in the US) and looked like they would not survive. The caterpillars were picked off and the bed covered with net. We are now eating the cabbage as the hearts are fine.

A similar thing happened with some cauliflower plants. They did not do well after transplanting and were just left in the bed but are now producing some very welcome late caulis. It just goes to show that you should never give up!

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We are picking  lettuce, leeks, parsnips, celeriac, cabbage, cauliflower and carrots as well as eating the frozen veg from earlier in the year and potatoes in store. There is a good supply of apples but some have scab. They do not look very nice but once peeled they are delicious.

Now is the time for seed catalogues to come out and plan for next year, who knows what that will bring as the weather is so unpredictable now.

New evidence proves organic food is better for health

New research reported in ScienceDaily has found that antioxidants help prevent damage to lungs caused by the flu virus.

The recent outbreak of H1N1 influenza and the rapid spread of this strain across the world highlights the need to better understand how this virus damages the lungs and to find new treatments, […] Additionally, our research shows that antioxidants may prove beneficial in the treatment of flu.

According to the UK press the recent report from the Food Standards Agency said that organic food is no better than the conventionally produced stuff*. Other research over the years has shown that the organic food is much higher in antioxidants and now there is scientific evidence that antioxidants help fight flu and may even prevent it.

Why did the FSA want to do such a good job of rubbishing organic food? I have heard it said that an endorsement of organics is a direct criticism of the quality conventional food, well yes!  The truth is out there – organic food IS more nutritious and eating it is better for your health. That is why I grow and eat organic food

* What they really said is that there is no evidence that eating more nutritionally dense food is any better for us. Now there is other evidence to say that it is!

Read more

Organic tomatoes have more antioxidants
Organic food is healthier: study
Report Confirms More Health Benefits of Organic food
More Antioxidants in Organic Food Than Conventionally Grown Food

The Organic Revolution: How We Can Stop Global Warming

“The heretofore unpublicized ‘good news’ on climate change, according to the Rodale Institute and other soil scientists, is that transitioning from chemical, water, and energy-intensive industrial agriculture practices to organic farming and ranching on the world’s 3.5 billion acres of farmland and 8.2 billion acres of pasture or rangeland can sequester 7,000 pounds per acre of climate-destabilizing CO2 every year, while nurturing healthy soils, plants, grasses, and trees that are resistant to drought, heavy rain, pests, and disease. And of course organic farms and ranches can provide us with food that is much more nutritious than industrial farms and ranches – food filled with vitamins, anti-oxidants, and essential trace minerals, free from Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), pesticides, antibiotics, and sewage sludge.”

-Ronnie Cummins, “The Organic Revolution: How We Can Stop Global Warming,” October 12, 2009

World Food Day – Organic Is the Answer to Food Security

“Organic agriculture puts the needs of rural people and the sustainable use of natural resources at the centre of the farming system. Locally adapted technologies create employment opportunities and income. Low external inputs minimize risk of indebtedness and intoxication of the environment. It increases harvests through practices that favor the optimization of biological processes and local resources over expensive, toxic and climate damaging agro-chemicals…in response to a frequently asked question: Yes, the world can be fed by the worldwide adoption of Organic agriculture. The slightly lower yields of Organic agriculture in favorable, temperate zones are compensated with approximately 10-20% higher yields in difficult environments such as arid areas.”

-International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements World Food Day, October 12, 2009

Read more by going to the IFOAM site here