Organic farming for city dwellers

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Organic farming does not have to be done away from home. Urban dwellers can grow their own organic vegetables and fruits in small places. "Organic Farming for City Dwellers" provides an insight into urban organic farming with a few tips for beginners.
Organic farming may sound like a daunting task but it never is impossible to start growing your own organic garden. You want to stay healthy but the sky-rocketing prices of organic vegetables and fruits make it impossible for you to have them every time you want them.

Let us try our hand on something that is more engaging than the planting we learned in Home Economics class, with a promising distance from the complexity of what we know as grand scale farming. The venue: your backyard. What you need: basic planting skills and a lot of patience.

I am almost certain organic products that come by the hundreds addle your visits to the supermarket. Each producer has his own claim, and you only want the best, and of course the safest, choices on your table. When a seller says his produce is organic, are you easily swept off your feet and simply takes his word for it? Chronicles say that the world is full of people who are going through the same dilemma.

Parleying with the king of green
Gil A. Carandang, an impassioned farmer and engaging teacher in organic farming, says the only way to make sure that what you’re putting on your table is indeed organic is to know if the seller is certified. “You have to know your farmer,” says the Fulbright scholar and owner of Herbana Farms, a four-hectare ecological organic demonstration farm in Calamba, Laguna (Philippines). Gil avers that unless you know where your fruits and vegetables really come from, there is a chance that ‘organic’ may simply be a false claim.

Reading up on organic plants is essentially the first step to getting a good grasp of the basics in organic planting. But unless you get out there and get to know the growers, there really is no saying that what you’re buying off the stalls are authentic organic fruits and vegetables.

Here’s something that you can do on your own, in your own backyard with very minimal cost. The rewards at the end of your project are produce that you and your family can swear by as organic. In the words of Gil that established him in the field of organic farming: “grow your own”.

Start Small
City dwellers often face the challenge of growing their own plants because of the lack of space. Urban organic backyard farming however is an achievable feat. There are vegetables and herbs that grow in small spaces, and some even just in containers. An example would be the warm weather plants. The common example of these are what is known as the pakbet plants (after the healthy dish called pakbet or pinakbet from the northern side of the Philippines) like eggplants, tomatoes, okra and bitter melons.

Waiting for the day to enjoy your produce may require patience. It takes 78 days on the average for eggplants and tomatoes to grow, while for most plants it takes 45 days. You see, this is no activity for the antsy. The time is considerably longer than intensively-farmed plants, or plants that grow fast because they are aided by agrochemicals.

Worth the wait
The financial crisis may be a force to reckon with when it comes to budgeting, and may even push us to opt for anything cheap in the market. Anything, even if it means chemically-aided food. Stop for a moment and ask yourself and anyone near you if it is worth it.

The one question consumers ask is, why are organic products so exorbitantly priced? This brings us to the good and the not so good side of farming. What makes organic plants organic is the absence of chemicals in the process of its growth, that’s why it takes longer to produce. Longer means natural and so it’s beneficial to our health.

If agrochemicals had a portfolio, it would not include the words ecology or nutrition anywhere in it. The agrochemicals were designed to make production faster and cheaper. Sadly, that’s where the story ends.

Here are a few things Gil Carandang tells us to remember in growing our own organic veggies:
• Loam. This is the best soil for planting. It retains moisture just enough to hydrate the plant and it doesn’t hold water for a long time so the plant doesn’t drown.
• Water. Watering the plants three times a day may not be the right way to do it. To check if your plant needs watering, check the soil if it’s still moist or not. Remember that drowning your plant will kill it.
• Canopy. The size of your plant pot should be relative to the size of the canopy of your plant. The canopy should indicate how big your pot should be for your plant to survive.
• Sunlight. The morning sun is more helpful than the afternoon sun. It is important for you to know which among your plants are considered long-day plants. They need 14 hours of sunlight in a day. Examples of long-day plants are cereals, potato and beet. Short-day plants on the other hand react to the longer night. Examples are soybeans and corn.
• Seeding. Seeds need to be placed indoors so they will become healthier and can better combat pests and pollutants. When your plant grows two pairs of leaves, it means they are ready to be placed outside.

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