May 2018 at Wark Farm
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I like being an organic farmer. It suits my brain. I would so much rather think about how a plant interacts with the soil while it competes with it’s neighbours before it gets eaten by a herbivore and moves to Plan B, than calibrate a sprayer and measure out the right amount of a herbicide to make the plant move to Plan B. There is a little more to being an organic farmer though than enjoying being a sculptor rather than an engineer. A lot more in fact. But I do get surprised sometimes by peoples ideas of what organic farming and food is about and perceptions of it. Almost 10 years on I still shake my head in bewilderment at the customer who made a beeline across a market to the stall once, asked straight out if the organic eggs we were selling were organic and immediately replied, ‘ I don’t want them then’ and walked away. I’ve taken a condiment set of salt and glyphosate to every subsequent market in case a sprinkle of herbicide residue is the how they preferred their eggs, but I’ve never used it. That customer scuttled off before I could shake my head clear enough to ask politely why, but I have done so on other occasions. Often the answer is price - a perception of over-expensive luxury. Sometimes I’ve heard a kind of ‘ordinary food not good enough for you?’ type of twist. I don’t need to win them all. More upsetting though is the rarer but still regular idea that organic is cruel because we aren’t allowed to use modern veterinary medications, which is so far off the pace and so at odds with the core of what we do that it hurts. From our agricultural contemporaries, the views range from backwards, messy, unproductive and cranky to ‘is there any more to it than just not using fertiliser and sprays?’.
It’s hard to roll up farming organically into one neat summary, it’s rather too big for that, but for me, in essence, it is a scientific, knowledge driven approach to managing our farmed environment to allow a sustainable, robust food harvest. To explore the rather bigger, complex and hugely interesting working out of that on the ground we are holding a farm walk and talk in June to focus, as we have done in the past, on What is Organic Farming. Sunday 17th June at 2pm is the date for your diary should you wish to come along. All going to plan we will have along other experienced organic producers and researchers for an enjoyable exploration of the subject from the academic to the pragmatic. And hopefully the sun will shine. It would be very helpful for logistics if we could have a rough idea of how many people might like to come along, and if you’d like to do so, you can pop your name and numbers coming on an email to us.