4 Major Ways the Burgeoning Organic Industry is Helping the Environment
By Anica Oaks
Environmentally-safe farming practices have been around since people first planted and harvested plants for food. However, with increased awareness of the importance of conserving Earth’s resources and ecosystems, organic agriculture is gaining popularity among farmers and consumers alike. Here are four reasons that organically-produced foodstuffs are vital for the health of our planet.
Organic farming is a major soil saver. There is significantly more topsoil and much less erosion in organic as compared to conventional fields. Since organic farms do not limit plant growth to crops, there is more vegetation to keep wind and rain from sweeping away nutrient-rich topsoil.
A long-term study demonstrates that organic practices result in greater amounts of nutrients. The results are notable: carbon and nitrogen were present in greater quantities, and organic fields produced 18% more corn than conventional ones.
Conserving and ensuring the quality of this vital resource is paramount. Since organic farmers work to maintain soil quality and make use of mulch, their fields retain moisture.
Farms employing organic practices are important for a healthy water supply in another way. Groundwater provides drinking water to approximately 50% of Americans and 95% of those in rural locations, where chemicals are commonly used. While many organic farmers solve the problem by fertilizing with manure, this is not always a viable option. Fortunately, there are chemical-free fertilizers available from places like Nature Safe that can supply a balance of nutrients and are kind to plants, soil, and water.
Healthy Wildlife and Plants
Organic farms do not only benefit people. Farmers invite birds and insects to take up residence and feast on crop-eating pests. In addition to eliminating reliance on chemicals to ensure productive yields, these farms provide a habitat for a variety of animals.
Not only wildlife benefits from organic farming practices. Animals who call these farms home can graze on wholesome plants not tainted by chemicals. Organic farmers are obligated to refrain from antibiotic or synthetic growth hormone use, feed their stock 100% organic food, and give animals healthful, free-roaming living space. (Cows, for example, must have access to nutrient-rich grass for at least a third of their lives.)
A long-term, ongoing study (begun in 1981) shows that if 10,000 mid-sized farms went organic, there would be enough carbon in the soil to be equivalent to reducing cars on the road by 1,174,000—or lessening total driving distances by 14.62 billion miles. In addition, organic crops are often locally grown, reducing the carbon emissions involved with transporting them to market.
Algae may be an eyesore, but it is more. Harmful algal blooms are detrimental to human and animal health as well as tourism and recreational activities and the economies that depend on them. While algae is a natural phenomenon, human practices—such as pollution, changes in climate, and fertilizers made with petroleum—contribute to its proliferation.
Organic farming practices may be as old as agriculture, but it is also the way of the future. The health of our planet and all its inhabitants depends on the wise choices we make in the production and distribution of agricultural products.