It seems wherever I go and mention organic farming a discussion on the meaning of organic arises. Yesterday, Sister Rosalie called to ask if she could give my private number to Doris, a member of her foundation, Vibrant Earth, of which I have recently become Vice President. In the process she began to tell me that on her last trip to the provinces she found out that one of the biggest producers of “organic” fertilizer, the Elizaldes, uses chicken manure from their chicken farm. Their chickens are not organic or free-range but are raised the conventional hormone and anti-biotic way. We do not consider their fertilizer organic and would not use it on our organic farms. After talking to Sister Rosalie, I got a call from Doris, she wanted to know if I was interested in buying carbon rice hull from her. Rice hulls are the outer covering of the rice grain and carbon rice hull is rice hulls that have been incinerated and turned to a usable fertilizer. Rice hulls can also be used as mulch in gardens. Our conversation went like this:
I asked if her rice was organically grown and she said it was not.
I told her I plan to use only organic fertilizers in my farm.
She said it was ok to use this fertilzer because it has been incinerated and all the toxic chemicals are no longer present.
I’m not quite sure about that being scientifically correct but aside from that I told her that I try to promote organic agriculture and therefore cannot use her product because that would be condoning conventional agriculture especially since there is organic fetilizer available.
So ok we ended that topic and naturally moved on to organic standards. Doris grows organic fruits and vegetables and is a member of OPTA (Organic Producers Trade Association). She says that OPTA allows the use of conventionally raised chicken manure on fruit trees because the toxins it may have will not reach the fruit but remain in the trunk of the tree. Needless to say, I was skeptical. Why not use organic fertilizer on everything and she said it was too expensive considering the amount that is used on her farm. Is there a cheap and effective alternative? I must find out…
It is disturbing to know that organic producers may be using so called “organic” fertilizers and then considering themselves organic producers. What then is the standard for produce to be called organic?