In Part I of the Organic vs. Conventional farming series, we made a case against conventional farming. With growing practices involving toxic chemicals, tillage, and heavy irrigation, the rate at which topsoil is being damaged is simply not sustainable. If drastic changes are not made, all of the words topsoil could be gone in 60 years. This is not a future problem, this is a now problem.
In this article, we will make a case for organic farming. We will look at what organic farming really means, and discuss the most recent research findings that support these growing practices. We will also discuss the need for organic farming in the cannabis space, as the demand for certified organic cannabis increases with legalization.
“With wrong farming methods, we turn fertile land into desert. Unless we go back to organic farming and save the soil, there is no future.” – Jaggi Vasudev
The Case for Organic Farming
Organic farming is a term that’s used to describe farming practices that promote ecological balance and biodiversity. This term has gained popularity in recent years, but before the agricultural revolution, used to be the only way we knew how to farm.
Developed in the early 20th century, organic farming was a reaction to rapidly changing conventional farming practises. Organic farming is simply the practice of farming without synthetic based fertilizers, pesticides or genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). Agricultural systems for organic farming are developed from animal and plant wastes to create ecologically-based pest controls, biological fertilizers, and living soils.
Organic farming is cyclic, drawing-upon and replenishing natural resources. It benefits the land, the farmers, and the produce, giving back as much as it takes. Compared with conventional farming, organic farming has numerous benefits.
Stabilizing the Soil
Many think of organic farming practices as only beneficial to the plants, but there are huge benefits here in building up and stabilizing the soil. In Microbial Growers, we learned that there is a huge army of microbes living within the soil. These organisms produce metabolites, hormones, and nutrients that are essential to plant growth.
Organic farming practices, such as crop rotation, cover crops and the use of organic fertilizers, help improve the soil’s flora and fauna (including the microbes). This creates more stable systems through soil formation and structure, which also helps to reduce the soil erosion common in conventional farming.
Protecting our Water
Another benefit of organic farming is the reduction in nutrient runoff and water pollution. In a happy plant-soil system, nutrients that enter the soil are broken down, processed by the microorganisms. If the system is disrupted, nutrients cannot be broken down and the accumulation can actually become toxic. Rain can then move these toxins into water sources, contaminating our land and our water.
Organic growing practices can conserve and reduce the pollution of water sources from synthetic pesticide and herbicide run-off. Using simple organic techniques like mulching crops can reduce water usage by as much as 50%, keeping the water and nutrients exactly where you want them.
“Organic farming appealed to me because it involved searching for and discovering nature’s pathways, as opposed to the formulaic approach of chemical farming. The appeal of organic farming is boundless; this mountain has no top, this river has no end.” – Eliot Coleman
Purifying the Air
Another area that benefits from tight nutrient cycles is air quality. By decreasing reliance on agrochemicals through the use of sustainable growing practices, cultivators become less reliant on fossil-fuel-based chemicals. This, in turn, results in the reduction of non-renewable energy being utilized, which is better for the environment.
Chemical spraying and other conventional practices contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, making agriculture a contributor to global warming and climate change. As there is a direct correlation between the emissions of nitrous oxide and nitrogen fertilizer applications, the switch to organic farming can help to fight climate change.
Food Safety & Quality
The increase in food quality and safety when choosing organic seems obvious, in terms of the reduction in pollution and chemical fertilizer use. What is not as obvious, is the role that organic practices play in increasing biodiversity, which reduces the risk of food-borne pathogens.
Though this may seem counterintuitive, having greater biodiversity is a good thing. Recent research suggests that by increasing soil bacteria and other organisms in the field, disease-causing organisms are often out-competed, promoting safer crops.
This becomes increasingly important when we consider cannabis and the new regulations coming into effect on October 17th, 2019. On this date, recreational edibles and concentrates will be legally permitted for sale, and contaminated products could cause serious health risks, especially when concentrated.
“Improved food safety may be an important, and perhaps underappreciated, ecosystem service that is enhanced by on-farm biodiversity” – 2019 Study
The Demand for Organic Cannabis
With the new recreational market, the Canadian cannabis industry has to keep up with consumer demand, while still using sustainable growing practices. Thankfully, through strict government licensing regulations and consumer preferences, the choice for organic growing is made a bit easier.
Cannabis use in Canadians is highest in the young adult millennial group, and 83% of millennials already buy organic products every week. This is a huge market to be tapped into. We are also seeing a shift in demand towards small-batch, craft cannabis, and expect to see the demand for organic growing practices follow.
Currently, cannabis is not covered through the Safe Food for Canadians Act, and therefore cannot be certified by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. However, there are internationally recognized companies, such a Pro-Cert, who provide accredited certification for organic farming practices, under the scope of the Canada Organic Standards.
Premium Organic Inputs
Starting off on the right foot and implementing organic farming practices right away, on any scale, will help you remain adaptive to future changes. Whether it’s for a large operation or a small backyard setup, growing organic can benefit producers, home-growers, and consumers alike.
Finding the best sources of organic grow mediums, fertilizers and soil amendments is imperative to our health and wellness. At BlueSky Organics, we offer a variety of growing products that exceed conventional alternatives in quality and aroma, promoting a successful, sustainable organic harvest.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one kit, the Organic Craft Growing Kit provides everything you need to grow any non-GMO seeds, organically, in four easy steps. If you’re already growing and looking to supplement, we have a wide range of products in sizes from personal-use to commercial and wholesale.
“We believe in the organic movement and are committed to making sustainable and natural choices. We can all reduce our environmental footprint by going back to the basics in horticulture, the way nature intended.” – BlueSky Organics
- FAO Contributors (2019). What are the environmental benefits of organic agriculture? Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
- Feber, R., Johnson, P., Macdonald, D. (March 2019). What Can Organic Farming Contribute to Biodiversity Restoration? Science Beneath Organic Production. Ch 7.
- Nejadkoorki, F. (September 2012). Environmental Benefits of Organic Farming. International Conference of Applied Life Sciences. P139-142.
- Organic Without Boundaries Contributors (September 2018). How Organic Agriculture Helps Mitigate Climate Change. Organic Without Boundaries – Digging Deeper.
- Jones, M. et al. (March 2019). Organic Farming Promotes Biotic Resistance to Foodborne Human Pathogens. Journal of Applied Ecology 56(5):1117-1127.
- Government of Canada. Regulations Amending the Cannabis Regulations (New Classes of Cannabis):SOR/2019-206. Canada Gazette, Part II, Volume 153, Number 13.
- Government of Canada (June 2019). Cannabis in Canada – Get the Facts.
- Smith, A. (April 2019). Organic Cannabis: A Pipe Dream? The Organic Council of Ontario.
- Government of Canada (February 2017). Safe for Canadians Act. Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
- OCO Contributors (2016). Canada’s Organic Standards. Organic Council of Ontario.
- Bouttes, M., Darnhofer, I., Martin, G. (June 2019). Converting to organic farming as a way to enhance adaptive capacity. Organic Agriculture 9(2): 235-247.