At one point in time, all farming was organic. Using compost, manure, sweat, knowledge, and working with plant crops available, soil and topography, farmers fed their families and as the population grew, agriculture fed villages, townships, and finally cities. It was during the age of alchemy did farmers start using compounds such as lead arsenate to control pests since these were not only available but cheap enough to purchase and use in the fields. As a kid, I remember seeing a TV program where a venerable English farmer ‘stuck with tradition’ thinly coated his pea seed with vegetable oil before rolling them in red lead powder with his bare hands. The fellow looked elderly, but he could have been in his 40’s with all that lead all over his hands and arms….and who knew how much lead was in his soil? So when the world of industrial chemistry dawned upon us, compounds never seen in nature before were cheap, easy to use, very effective, and did not discriminate between friend nor foe.
Now a new age of awareness is dawning (or I’d like to think so) and people are looking for organically grown foods and searching for ways to take better care of the land, water and air. Thus in turn are taking better care of the health of future generations…of all creatures.
There are plenty of sites that go into detail of the effects of pseudo-estrogenic chemicals, mutagens, and persistent toxins but I won’t discuss that here. Instead, I will write of how easy it truly is!
On this rainy early May morning, I paused for a moment to look out onto the orchard just steps away. A pair of chestnut-backed chickadees descend on a 10 year old Gala and are looking between the clustered apple blossoms in search of a meal. I see one with a small green caterpillar in its beak before fluttering off. They have nestlings now and more than likely has gone to feed the tasty edible to its young. Between the chickadees, kinglets, vireos, and other feathered gleaners keeping the nibbling insects in check, we never had the need to use sprays. Because we don’t need to use sprays we don’t have to worry about pollination timing as many sprays harm or kill insect pollinators and predators, the same beneficial insects you want to have in a thriving orchard. When we started the orchard and garden, there was very little here other than surrounding forest. It took a few years to reach this equilibrium, but we don’t have to do much maintenance other than the regular broadcasting of fertilizer or mulching the beds. Our life is much easier this way and its never a fight each year to keep on top of spraying regimens and keeping constant vigil over the next threat in an ecologically/biologically unbalanced landscape.