Organic gardening with Klaus Laitenberger -part 2
Back to the course……
FACT: You can get addicted to the blandness of chemically grown produce. Your taste buds get so used to the lack of flavour, naturally grown vegetables seem too strong.
Klaus also notices something about chemically produced vegetables. “They seem to last forever,” he notes. Shop bought crops that are chemically produced can last months, which makes means it is easier to transport, store and display them on the supermarket shelves. I know what he’s talking about. I once had a punnet of tomatoes that had such thick skins on them that they stayed in the compost heap for months before they finally rotted down. Good natural tomatoes should last 2 days as they have soft skins. Klaus loves his tomatoes, one of his favourites is a beautiful soft skinned one called Sungold.
FACT: Plants grow faster when they are fed artificially. They produce a uniformed size and colour of vegetable, which is good for the display stand in the supermarket, not for the soil or the environment.
Conventional farming practices are responsible for a lot of pollution, especially phosphates into watercourses. This kills fish and the chemicals inevitably end up back in the water supply. “With a population of just 4 million people in the island of Ireland, this practice should be avoidable.” Klaus thinks, and continues. “In America there are initiatives where farmers are paid to be totally organic within 500 metres of a water course so no pollutants seep into the rivers and waterways.”
It’s a possibility: In 5 years from now the need for water could be so great that it could be Ireland’s biggest export.
In Ireland, to be organic you have to go through a strict certification process. There are two organisations where you can get certified.
IOFGA (Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association) were set up to certify the organic integrity of foodstuffs, produce, and products for farmers, growers, and food processors. Including wholesalers, traders, and retailers
The Organic Trust claim to be the centre of excellence when it comes to organic inspection and certification.
“It’s a two year process,” says Klaus. “In the first year you have to make all the practices on your land organic from the soil to the seeds. Only after the end of two years will you be truly organic. And then the organic certificate will only apply to seeds and plants that are planted after the two year period.” The site inspection can cost from €150 -€400. We all agreed unanimously that this is a reliable method of having certification, although it’s a long winded process it does ensure good organic practice.
FACT: Only 1% of land in Ireland is farmed organically. Austria, Switzerland and Italy have the highest percentages of up to 5%.
WHY DON’T IRISH FARMERS OPT TO GROW ORGANIC?
Klaus hasn’t any official answer for this. We don’t think it’s anything to do with money. “If farmers converted to organic, there would be double the REPS grants available.” Some people in the group think that farmers don’t take up the offer because of a lower yield but most probably it’s the fear of constant inspections and invasion of their land and farm.
FACT: How many living creatures in a handful of soil? Klaus: “Billions, far more than people on the planet, it’s the foundation of life and needs to be looked after.”