Spread the Circle of Organic Farming

Most of us are aware of the hubbub in the wake of the disquieting news of DDT being found in human milk. Four decades back when this information first hit out that human breast milk was contaminated with the pesticide DDT, it had created a furore across the world. Strict restrictions on its use lowered DDT concentrations in human milk.

The pesticide DDT was used since 1940s to control typhus and agricultural pests. However the harmful effects led to a strict ban on its use after the 1970’s. But we still remain riddled with concerns over its existence in the environment for causing irreversible health problems. Similarly conventional farming too remains troubled with the continued use of chemicals in agriculture that affect health of people eating chemical laden food.

Several countries are safely transitioning back to organic methods of farming to obtain healthy produce. Organic farming reverts back to traditional approaches in farming to cultivate food without using fertilizers, synthetic pesticides, growth hormones, chemicals or genetically modified organisms. Organic farming ensures crops do not harbor harmful residues of toxic chemicals. It deploys methods of farming that are sustainable and in sync with nature.

HERD Organic Farms undertakes organic farming and we realize that soil fertility improves dramatically as does productivity over time. We have been making use of natural manure that is produced at the farm by organic practices of composting and production of green manure that makes the soil more productive and fertile. Farm manager Anil Khare states: “Soil treated with organic fertilizers hosts billions of useful bacteria that are useful in breaking down plant residues and livestock wastes into useful soil nutrients to improve soil binding.”

We have also discovered that organic farming establishes biodiversity and that our methodologies have ensured development of a resilient bio-diverse landscape. These natural practices have helped in minimizing erosion of agricultural biodiversity and enhanced species richness and abundance. With absolutely no chemical usage in the farms the landscape has become rich with organic flora and fauna like pollinators and pest pillagers!

In fact organic practices have also prevented water contamination. Since we do not allow water to get exposed to any kind of toxins the soil remains rich in organic matter with salubrious moisture content. It is further a matter of deep satisfaction that ground water retention and infiltration is toxic free. Healthy soil acts like a sponge to keep vegetation well moisturized with unsoiled recharged underground water.

Last but not the least organic farming diminishes conventional energy use by minimizing agricultural chemical needs and addresses the issue of emissions and global warming by repossessing carbon in the soil. Good practices like reduced tillage, crop rotation, nitrogen fixing legumes and so on maximize the carbon concentration in soil. We all know that the more organic carbon stored in soil the more mitigation ability of agriculture against climate change.

Organic farming is truly a win-win situation. Aside from it improving soil binding and reducing runoff, the soil remains nutrient rich resulting in increased soil density causing less runoff. Organic farming also boosts bacteria that help plants fix nitrogen and help utilize and convert these nutrients before they get an opportunity to run-off. With so many benefits why then is organic farming taking so much time to be adopted by all. The fact is that many farmers remain apprehensive about adopting it due to high production costs. Add to this the burden of competing with low prices of conventional produce.

HERD Organic Farms contends with this issue but remains resolute to stand for sustainable organic farming. Even though the yield may be low we know that long term profitability and environmental benefits are in store. Upcoming studies portend that desired yields will come in good time. It is for this reason that we need to extend the circle of influence for promoting organic farming and bring conventional farmers into the fold. To this end HERD Foundation remains committed.



Origins of Organic Farming

Agricultural practices all over the world naturally started out pristine and unsullied. But by the middle of the 19th century with the creation of fertilizers to safeguard and increase production, they gradually became popular in usage. Likewise with the advent of chemical pesticides by the 1940s the pesticide era began in all earnest in the agriculture sector.

These modern techniques were adopted all over the world evidently for the benefits clearly visible. What was not recognized was the serious long term damage that was to occur to the soil, soil fertility, and human health. Today there is no denying that toxic chemicals have entered our food supplies. This is why agricultural scientists had to look for ways to remedy the situation.

While it was imperative to maintain production levels for a burgeoning population, biodynamic agriculture soon became essential for cultivation of organic food. Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian visionary made the first known presentation in a series of lectures for what later came to be known as organic agriculture. His study was in response to farmers who were troubled by degrading soil conditions and deterioration in health and quality of crops by use of chemical fertilizers.

Next, Albert Howard and his wife Gabrielle Howard, both skillful botanists, founded an Institute of Plant Industry to improve traditional farming methods in pre-independent India. Working with upgraded implements and scientific methods they incorporated aspects of local traditional methods. These included evolved practices of crop rotation, erosion prevention techniques, and use of composts and manures. Upon return to Britain they carried back these experiences in traditional farming to propagate natural agriculture.

Subsequently, Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, a German soil scientist, author of Bio-Dynamic Farming and Gardening came to UK at behest of Walter James, 4th Baron Northbourne to make his presentation at the Conference on Biodynamic Farming. The conference brought together several proponents of organic agriculture that broadened the scope and movement. Albert Howard also attended this conference and later Northbourne published his manifesto of organic farming entitled “Look to the Land” in which he first coined the term “organic farming.”

Subsequently Howard too published a book called “An Agricultural Testament” in which he adopted the terminology “organic farming.” Howard’s work spread far and wide and he become famous as “father of organic farming” for his scientific knowledge and principles of various traditional and natural methods. Meanwhile in the United States J.I. Rodale, who was captivated by Howard’s ideas and biodynamics founded a working organic farm – The Rodale Institute along with a Rodale Press that taught and advocated organic methods to a wider public.

In our times increased environmental awareness has brought organic farming to the fore. However it took decades to bring organic farming to its present juncture. Despite offers of grants and subsidies, it was lack of break-even profit line in organic farming that kept farmers tilling the land with fertilizers and pesticides. Later the world realized the ill-effects of soil loss and human health issues and responded with traditional methods that were comparable to organic farming, more or less.

However, even now it is difficult to obtain certified organic produce as some lacunae still exists, largely for economic reasons.  The good thing about organic farming is that it encourages crop diversity. The science of agroecology emphasizes benefits of poly-culture that occurs in organic farming. Planting a variety of vegetable crops supports a wider range of beneficial insects, soil microorganisms, and other factors that add up to overall soil health.

Crop diversity helps environments to flourish and protects species. Soil management is therefore key to organic farming. It relies greatly on the natural breakdown of organic matter, using techniques like manure and composting, necessary to replace nutrients taken from the soil by previous crops. It is a biological process that facilitates microorganisms to be added naturally with nutrients to the soil, what is better known as – feeding the soil to feed the plant!

Today, organic farming is practiced almost all over the world. Nearly hundred odd countries are involved in replenishing soils to counter the ill-effects of earlier used chemicals. The changed mindset of consumers all over the world is evident of a demand driven sector. Most countries promote organic farming in a bid to restore soil health and cleaning up the environment. Global organic tracts measure to nearly 26 million hectares and world over there are 61 standards and 364 certification bodies.

The world organic market in the US alone is worth 26 billion US$. Organic area in India measures to about 2.5 million hectare and includes certified forest areas. Interestingly non-certified organic areas are greater than certified organic area. The National Centre of Organic Farming under Ministry of Agriculture promotes organic farming across the country to provide assistance to organic farmers.


Food for Thought – Breaking the Silence around Women’s Ill-health


happy rural woman with kid

Happy Through it All

We are really surprised by the show-up by rural women in our medical health camps. They come in large numbers and sit around patiently waiting for their turns. The majority of them suffer from all kinds of aches and pains; from debilitating lower back pain, to aching calf muscles, and even chronic migraines. One would have thought that rural women – work-hardy souls, bent double with domestic drudgery and field work would enjoy deep nightly slumbers to sleep away their pains. Alas this is not so.

Nutrition plays a major role in women’s good health. Psychological well being also positively affects the physical health status. A woman’s health is often dramatically impaired by malnutrition. India currently has one of the highest rates of malnourished women among developing countries. A study in 2000 found that nearly 70 percent of non-pregnant women and 75 percent of pregnant women are anemic. One of the reasons of malnutrition remains gender imbalance in distribution of food resources.

It is an age old tradition for women to deprive themselves of all essential food items. They save it all for the next helping by brothers, sons and husbands. Studies indicate that nutritional intake in early adolescence by girls can affect her reproductive health. Maternal malnutrition has also been associated with increased risk of maternal mortality as also child birth defects. Addressing the problem of malnutrition would lead to beneficial outcomes for women and children.

Further our health care system remains skewed. It is a fact that healthcare professionals remain concentrated in urban areas. This results in people from rural areas seeking care from unqualified providers who lack formal training. HERD Foundation realizes that health is an important factor that contributes to human well-being of rural communities. Women do face multiple health problems that need to be compassionately addressed.  HERD Foundation works despite gender, class and ethnic disparities existing in rural areas through a healthcare delivery system that improvises medical services, especially for the women.