Smallholders Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: Organic? Conventional? A mix of both?  (Read 636 times)

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
Organic? Conventional? A mix of both?
« on: March 28, 2021, 02:01:50 pm »
After a comment elsewhere, I got to thinking.  I have always assumed (I know, 'assume' makes an ass of you and me) that most smallholders will tend towards an organic approach to running their smallholdings and gardens. 


However, there is a clear division of  approach amongst members between organic or low input versus using chemicals and higher input.  So I wondered what everyone thinks about 'Organic' and 'Conventional' methods of husbandry and how they apply that to their own land?


A friendly, non-judgemental discussion would be lovely, and I would genuinely like to see and learn about all sides of the question, and how they apply to individual holdings and finances.
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the the lifeblood of your land.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
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Re: Organic? Conventional? A mix of both?
« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2021, 03:18:14 pm »
It may be a challenge to keep it from getting tense at times, I think, but an excellent topic. 

Here, we like to say we use "organic methods" but in truth there is not much knowledge amongst small producers generally (iincluding ourselves) about what organic certification really means, and hence the extent to which we should not, unless we are certified or are conversant with and really follow one of the authorised sets of standards, even use the term.  (It is a reserved term.  You should not say you are organic, much less advertise your produce as organic, unless you are certified.  I see so many instances of non-certified goods being sold as organic on farmers' markets...) 

aaaand that was the sound of me getting off my hobby horse...   :-\   For a while, maybe...  :/
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
Re: Organic? Conventional? A mix of both?
« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2021, 04:39:17 pm »
Ah yes, perhaps I should have included both 'Organic' and 'organic' in the options, Organic (cap O)  being the convention for being registered with one of the Organic bodies, and organic (lower case o) simply meaning not using chemicals, and using low input, gentle and (some) traditional methods.  I say 'some' trad methods, because the Victorians were well known for using some of the most lethal chemicals on their veggies and land, which certainly would not have passed any 'Organic' checks today, or even have been allowed under 'Conventional' rules.


I don't think we need to be contentious about this discussion, Sally. All I'm hoping for is a sharing of TAS members opinions and experiences.  There are plus points on each side, and I suspect that most of us not registered as Organic use a mixture of both. For our animals, we do use chemical wormers if, and only if, needed and anti-fly-strike products routinely through the danger period, but otherwise we use a low-input, natural system.
For veggies I have always used the methods I learned from my father, who was not specifically gardening and farming organically, just using the method he knew and could afford, which turned out to be organic by today's judgement. 


I think two of the main differences are speed and patience.  For some, an immediate response and sorting of the problem is important, whereas with others, and with other problems, a slower result is OK.


I'm hoping to see people explaining why their chosen method works for them, and the benefits they see.
Also it would be good to see people's long term expectations of their chosen methods.
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the the lifeblood of your land.

Steph Hen

  • Joined Jul 2013
  • Angus Scotland.
Re: Organic? Conventional? A mix of both?
« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2021, 08:48:27 pm »
The farm is conventional arable, although these days it is more thinking how we can incorporate regenerative farming principles.
For me in the garden and my boys itís more organic, Iíll use lime for ph or soapy water on aphids, but not much. Basically hope compost and bit of manure fix everything..? The compost isnít organic certified, I avoid using straw thatís been glyphosated if I can help it. I believe in healthy soil; healthy microbiome is NECESSARY for health and future of humans, animals and the world. Chemicals are needed because the soil is lacking something. Topping up the one thing likely results in other imbalances, nothing in biology is this simple (Iíve a PhD in ecology and itís never simply a matter of topping up or addressing one thing). Pesticides, ploughing, monocultures, etc, cause damage and imbalance to microbes which ends up resulting in problems down the line. farms can be managed under organic label and continue to damage soil but Iím fairly sure the people who can/do take the time and cost and risk to convert would continue researching and attempt to improve their farmsí fertility. Things like shelter and wildlife provision are also important and just about all farmers Iíve met like doing this stuff so long as they see results, though the red tape can be frustrating. Despite all the advances in agriculture over the last 40years, the vegetables we eat today have lower nutritional value. This is one theory of whatís fuelling the obesity epidemic; most peopleís bodies are lacking trace elements and micronutrients (because they are lacking in the soil), so they are compelled to eat more.
I expect most smallholders try the organic bit, hopefully have discovered no dig veg, like cider vinegar but will use whatever the vet says when they need to?

Backinwellies

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Re: Organic? Conventional? A mix of both?
« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2021, 06:52:52 am »
  I do know what organic certification means ... or what it meant in the 80's as I worked with a number of students on organic farms.  Organic (capital O) is a way of making money for the soil association  (in my opinion..... ag degree, ag lecturer and now smallholder) .

 They fight against everything which makes farming and our british countryside sustainable.  If the approach was much more organic (small o)  there would be much less reason for this topic to be contraversial.

Most livestock farmers use the minimum medicines needed to keep animals healthy (why spend a fortune when it isnt needed?) .  Arable farmers have been directed to using too many chemicals by subsidies and cheap imports... running back to the late 70's/ early 80's (I distinctly remember being taken as a young ag degree student to a velcourt farm and being shown the 'Wonderful' completely weed free wheat crop .... little did we know then the follow on to this!) 

Our smallholding is based on pasture fed livestock ... and far too many hangers on to be commercial ... we use medicines for animal welfare  and have planted many trees and hedges....  trying to improve the biodiversity of our own little piece .... but without jepodising the welfare of our animals.

My soapbox (which has been there nearly 40 yrs since my degree)  is Organic does not mean excellent welfare.   I used to visit a student who worked on a VERY famous large organic farm in southern England, in  the mid 80's . She worked in the calf unit .... and the stories I heard very much fuelled this soapbox.


Ok off soapbox now ..... for a while!! :roflanim:

 
Linda

Don't wrestle with pigs, they will love it and you will just get all muddy.

Let go of who you are and become who you are meant to be.

http://nantygroes.blogspot.co.uk/
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Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
Re: Organic? Conventional? A mix of both?
« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2021, 01:41:05 pm »

I'm suffering from the famous disappearing replies, so I'll try again  ::)


<< Organic (capital O) is a way of making money for the soil association  >>

I do love a cynic @Backinwellies   :roflanim: :roflanim:  but so true.  No wonder so many small farmers and smallholders don't choose to register or get certified by an Organic Body.  It simply isn't worth their while, given all the red tape, conditions to fulfill, expense, inspections, and so on, for no advantage.
For us, we sell only some sheep meat, eggs and a few veg.  People buy them for our welfare, the rare breediness of the animals, free rangeingness of the eggs and the local grownness of the veggies. Although they know we use organic methods, we never claim to be Organic, and on this scale no-one's interested.

On the other hand I understand @SallyintNorth 's annoyance with those who sell produce as 'Organic' when they are not certified.  For those selling to people they don't know, those people are buying because of the Organic claim, which is all strangers have to back their judgements as to which food to buy, to suit their preferences. I think in many areas of The South, and perhaps other areas near large conurbations, buying certified Organic food is the only way to guarantee what you are getting, and if some producers are cheating at this then it is cause for concern.


ps - love the green. Thank you
:thumbsup:
« Last Edit: March 29, 2021, 01:47:47 pm by Fleecewife »
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the the lifeblood of your land.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Organic? Conventional? A mix of both?
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2021, 02:30:56 pm »
A fantastic project, which I might even see if I could get off the ground if I were younger, would be some sort of cost-effective self-certification scheme for small producers.  It could cover its costs, I would think.  Perhaps full certification (ie., inspection, report, certificate after all issues addressed and reinspected) could be an optional extra, for those to whom it would be worth it. 

The benefit to the planet would be in the education.  The benefit to the producers would also be in the education, but also what should be a more cost-effective route to being fully certified as a small producer, if that is of interest.

If a body such as the Soil Association were to back and operate it and come up with a 2-stage membership, where only if you buy the optional full certification add-on are you allowed to use the SA logo and call yourself proper organic, it could maybe work.  The difficult bit would be how to identify "self-certification" members and not be too harmed by those (inevitably, sadly, there would be some) who abuse it.

« Last Edit: March 29, 2021, 02:37:09 pm by SallyintNorth »
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Organic? Conventional? A mix of both?
« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2021, 02:49:00 pm »
The other bit that does annoy me, and I should be more understanding because maybe the knowledge is not so easy to come by, is the saying "We are effectively organic" or similar and still using very ecologically damaging practises with no attempt to improve.

An example would be worming.

Even a fully-certified organic producer would use wormers if necessary for animal welfare.  But,

  • The choice of wormer would be from an approved list of wormers that are less environmentally damaging and are certified for use in organic systems with a veterinary derogation for a one-time use
  • use of some products may be restricted to certain times of year when the collateral damage to soil fauna would be less
  • the withdrawal period would be doubled
  • very rarely would the entire flock or herd be treated, normally only affected animals would be treated (and yes I know that a lot of small producers use FECs to ensure they never worm unnecessarily, which is good practise)
  • the reasons for having needed to use the wormer would be explored and a plan to avoid having the same happen another year would be put in place - for instance, better rotation or resting of pasture; breeding selection for strains which have not needed treatment; introduction of anthelmintic plants such as sainfoin and chicory into the sward
  • the veterinary derogation would not be allowed by the certification body if it is going on year after year and no viable avoidance plan has been put in place
« Last Edit: March 29, 2021, 02:56:44 pm by SallyintNorth »
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
Re: Organic? Conventional? A mix of both?
« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2021, 10:38:04 pm »
An interesting point Sally.  I have met quite a few people who tend towards organic measures, but they have all, like us, gone for the simplest wormers, because people who think enough to know we should be using fewer chemicals also know when we do have to use them they need to be the simplest and least contaminating available but still effective.  For me, if an animal needs a treatment, then it gets it, but we don't go dosing our sheep willynilly, and I don't know people who do.  Obviously you must have met some who tend more towards the 'organic if its simple, but load on the chemicals if it gets complex' approach.
But at least when someone says that they try to be organic in their approach, you can enquire further to find the detail.  Also, not everyone is perfect, and at least they are beginning the journey to a more sustainable approach to farming.

I have been studying the ins and outs of ecologically sustainable answers for the Planet for at least three years now, and the big point I've realised is that there is not one answer, but many. Trying to shift the behaviour of seven and a half billion people is not going to be easy.  A horribly large proportion of those people do not believe that we need to make those changes, but choose to ignore the glaringly obvious, or simply do not have the information they need to make the decision.  Governments suffer from the obvious reality that their tenure is in most cases quite short, so the making of long term plans and rules which will not be popular will not get them re-elected, so any measures they do legislate for will be reversed as soon as they are voted out.  Just look at the last administration over the pond.

But even then, it is not totally clear which measures we should be adopting and for me at the moment I am struck by the question of car power. Electric cars are now the bee's knees in the UK but there is no way there can be enough recharging points if everyone makes the change, and long journeys which may be necessary would take days with stops for recharging.  We changed our petrol driven car for a diesel when the Gov said diesel was best, then we changed back to a petrol car when they said diesel was the new evil.  Now they're both wrong so it's electric vehicles we have to have.  Each time we have changed our car, we have effectively ditched a perfectly functioning vehicle in order to get a new one which is costing the Earth in raw materials and manufacturing costs, transport and carbon just to get it as far as the showroom.  Our Landrovers on the other hand date back years (the oldest to 1951) and although they are petrol driven, there are no replacement costs involved and the springs make for such an uncomfortable ride that we don't go far, so don't use much fuel.  Our motorcycles are even better - the oldest is from 1913, so has given a pretty good return compared to a modern 'disposable' car.

There is the question of reducing or cutting out our meat consumption and 'retraining farmers to grow veg'. The mind boggles. Veggies on the Fells, on salt marshes, on The Hill or on any of the marginal ground where grazing animals do so well.  Some of the suggestions which come out of scientific research are amazing; some are downright daft.

How to feed all the seven and a half billion people in the world today, and the nine and a half billion we are creeping towards, is an enormous quandary, especially because at the same time we absolutely have to improve the living conditions of people who currently have so little that drinking a cup of clear, clean water is not a possibility.

Whilst the scientists are arguing about the changes we have to make, they are not sure whether we should be going in the direction of increasing mechanisation of food production, such as robot controlled agriculture, or whether we should reduce mechanisation and give every family a small piece of land on which to grow their own crops.  Some see one extreme as bound to lower the quality of life for all, others see the opposite as having the same effect.  Meanwhile, no decisions can be made and we have to wait from year to year for another climate summit to discuss the same old topics, make the same old promises, then fail to fulfill them.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2021, 10:55:24 pm by Fleecewife »
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the the lifeblood of your land.

Backinwellies

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Re: Organic? Conventional? A mix of both?
« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2021, 07:28:49 am »
need a clapping emoji

totally agree fleecewife.    :thumbsup:

 .... and that sceptic in me (that I keep sooooo well hidden   :roflanim: ) is very sceptical that electric powered stuff is the answer to anything ....  we cant possibly produce enough green energy (if there really is such a thing) to power all electric cars / bikes and all other rechargeable stuff we have these days never mind in the future.

my car is a diesel (I know shoot me!) ..... but it is an 06 model and still going strong .... and as far as i'm concerened longevity and mendability  is the future .... not new, electric and short life batteries!


purple anyone?
« Last Edit: March 30, 2021, 07:30:59 am by Backinwellies »
Linda

Don't wrestle with pigs, they will love it and you will just get all muddy.

Let go of who you are and become who you are meant to be.

http://nantygroes.blogspot.co.uk/
www.nantygroes.co.uk
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Buttermilk

  • Joined Jul 2014
Re: Organic? Conventional? A mix of both?
« Reply #10 on: March 31, 2021, 01:43:44 pm »
I have been brought up with traditonal/conventional farming.  Sprays being used as and when on the arable side.  Never straw shorteners though as we wanted all the straw we could get.  A three/four year rotation of crops wheat/barley/grass.  We were growing the grass and barley for feeding our stock, the wheat to sell but sold surplus barley and haylage when we had it.

Muck from the cattle was put back on the land and only after soil testing was any bagged stuff used.  Herbicides were used to deal with problems, including on thistles in the cattle grazing fields.  Some years we went with slug pellets on the cereal crops as well.

Now we have downsized and do not have any cereal land, only permanent pasture.  No bagged tillage has been used only the muck heap being spread on the hay fields each year.  The cattle have gone and sheep have replaced them.  The creeping thistles get topped, the others get cut off with a penknife when spotted.  The rushes and sedges have been grazed and topped so they are all under control (miss a couple of years and they would take over again). 

The lambs get treated with anthelmintics for nematodes at the first sign of any trouble, I do fec's to check.  All sheep get treated for liver fluke at least once and often more times, dependant on the weather conditions as there is fluke here.  The wild rabbits have fluke and make sure that it is well spread about!  I will resort to using antibiotics if any sheep need them, mainly for foot problems here as wet land.  The sheep do get treated to prevent fly strike.  I have black sheep and so tell tale dark patches cannot be seen on them.

The equines have their muck removed from the land and put onto the muck heap as a worm control strategy.  I am not bothered about removing this as the land also gets grazed hard by the sheep and lots of sheep muck is left behind.  They get wormed on fec too.  Some years I will use fly repellants on them but usually they can come into the barn and shade away from the flies.

The aim here is to help the land and leave it in better heart than when we took it on and to have happy, healthy stock.

We have two cars, shock horror, one small petrol one and a larger diesel one which has towing capacity.  Neither is new and living at least seven miles away from the nearest bus route having our own transport is a necessary.  Once we cannot get ourselves anywhere under our own steam then we will sell up and move to an area with better services.

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
Re: Organic? Conventional? A mix of both?
« Reply #11 on: March 31, 2021, 09:44:20 pm »
It sounds as if the way you now use your land could be arrived at from either direction - either from conventional using chemicals then reducing their use and being left with mainly natural methods and only using chemically derived products when necessary; or coming at it from the organic or natural side, but realising that at times some chemical input is desirable for welfare reasons or to solve a particular problem. So 'a bit of both'  :D
To me that is the most sensible way to farm - using old knowledge and new technology where appropriate.

One thing I have not found is research showing whether this minimum input farming is as harmful as all-out commercial scale chemical farming, or just about as good as totally Organic.  In fact thinking about it, I have not seen research comparing the two extremes in a wide variety of settings, which we really need to inform our decisions. So far research I have seen is fairly piecemeal.

I wonder if 'natural growing' is a more appropriate description of chemical-free growing than using the confusing 'organic'?
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the the lifeblood of your land.

Backinwellies

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Re: Organic? Conventional? A mix of both?
« Reply #12 on: April 01, 2021, 07:21:59 am »
  totally agree Fleecewife ....   any research tends to be extreme organics proving they are better than commercial .... rather than a more sensible 'sustainable smallholding style'.
 
  Pure organic uses far to many people to be the answer to commercial production. .... and we already have a shortage of people in this country prepared to rogue weeds or pull carrots by hand.

I'd love more practical research which has the aim of deciding .... yes use this but avoid this like the plague!   

Glyphosate is a point in question here (not trying to redirect discussion) ... if it is totally banned then people will be using the much worse for the environment chemicals to get rid of rushes for example.

We could do so much better on informing people of a 'good' way of doing things if more focus was put on a sustainable commercial version of things ....
Linda

Don't wrestle with pigs, they will love it and you will just get all muddy.

Let go of who you are and become who you are meant to be.

http://nantygroes.blogspot.co.uk/
www.nantygroes.co.uk
Nantygroes  facebook page

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
Re: Organic? Conventional? A mix of both?
« Reply #13 on: April 01, 2021, 01:16:15 pm »
I had forgotten about the labour intensity of Organics (it's just a fact of life here  ::) ).  There is development going on to mechanise some processes normally carried out by human hand, but really they are way beyond affordability for smallholders. I suppose that if all agri- and horti- culture was carried out organically and that became the norm, then prices would drop, but certainly that won't happen in my lifetime.  Meanwhile we plod on with the help of a rotavator which is so bad for the soil that I cringe every time the thing comes out of the shed. I am of the party which believes that a few weeds really don't matter, but I don't run the place alone, so have to accept some compromises.
For Roundup, I have seen evidence that it is more persistent in the environment and in the body than was thought/claimed, so I am very wary of it, so more research in that area, and especially into developing truly SAFE weedkillers and pesticides is vital.  We really need to know the facts so we can make proper evidence-based decisions.  Our survival truly does depend on it.


This is one area which tends to support the future option of giving each family land to live on to grow their own food, as usually there is enough labour in one family to produce enough for them to eat.  It's when it becomes large scale that labour problems arise.


<< We could do so much better on informing people of a 'good' way of doing things if more focus was put on a sustainable commercial version of things .... >>
Absolutely :thumbsup:   But then good old human nature butts in and someone wants to take over the whole idea and turn it into a vast profit making enterprise, and blow the principles.  I am cynical which is why I think that, disastrously, high computer-controlled mechanisation and titred application of chemicals will be the way we go ultimately.  I also think that if the human race survives this , then it will have evolved to be even more totally selfish than is already the case.  Our future seems to be in the hands of BIG AGRI and BIG PHARMA, the greediest of them all.

I really would like someone who feels strongly that mechanisation and chemicals are the way to go for the future, as this is a one sided discussion so far.
« Last Edit: April 01, 2021, 01:23:33 pm by Fleecewife »
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the the lifeblood of your land.

 

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