Organic and Seasonal Produce

Seasonal and Organic

Seasonal and Organic


Why Nature Won’t Give You The Same Variety As The Supermarkets Do
I know everybody is frustrated right now with the lack of variety in the fruit and vegetable section and I know everybody is fed up with sweet potatoes and carrots. I hear the confusion – why is it that if I go to an ordinary store and look at conventional produce, I can get everything I want but with organic the range is so limited?
I hope I answer this question adequately in this article. I stand for the grander intelligence of nature and have to ironically defend why I am not the idiot I appear to be when I do so and can’t bring you grapes and tomatoes in winter.
I hope to link you to the challenges a true organic farmer faces in between seasons while he waits for nature to produce the conditions ready for the next growth to help you understand why seasonal eating and organic farming go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other.
I spoke to Sarel, the farmer at local and organic Ambersky Farm this morning about their frustrations with seasonal growing and this time especially when nothing grows until the rains come. I hope to put Sarel’s voice into this article so that that I link you to the farmer, to the soil. I feel like an utter failure when I can’t make people understand the principles of seasonal eating, that people don’t, means that I haven’t explained this aspect of organic farming adequately and have some work to do.
I seem to need to defend organic farmers and nature at this time of year specifically, the lack of understanding points to this vast disjoint between us and the soil that grows our food and the farmer behind it.
There can be no food revolution until we understand this link.
I need to help you ‘see’ the spring seedlings at Ambersky Farm right now, that have been planted, that now await water, that won’t grow until we get the first rain.
Rain is nitrate rich. Seedlings need nitrate rich soil in order to germinate. If you aren’t using artificial fertilizers, you wait for the first thunderstorm. The thunder adds extra oxygen to the nitrogen in the rain, which provides  ‘voomah’ to kick start summer growth, a whack dosage of nitrates into the soil. This is nature’s way of helping start summer growth. Nature is kind like that and she is abundant. The abundance doesn’t show up though in a wide variety of produce all year round, it shows up differently.
I need you to see Sarel’s frustration at the September cold snap that has just hit and how it kills the first seedling’s germination and how he needs to start again. This is a regular September challenge, last year it snowed! Just as temperatures increase and seedlings start germinating there is often a backlash, it’s almost like a wobble in the transition between winter and spring until the weather finds her rhythm.
Can you imagine what that might feel like? If you were growing your own food and doing it in line with nature, what might it feel like to have your very livelihood dependent on the weather?
I need you to know how he waits for the soil temperature to get to where it needs to be in order to germinate a seedling. How a cold snap like this week feels for a farmer, the conditions now aren’t right for the spring seedlings, many will die and will need to be replanted and then they need time to grow.
This is why there is an abundance of produce from October onwards through to March before it all changes again. Right now, winter crops are coming to an end because temperatures have increased, but conditions aren’t yet right for summer growth and won’t be until the rains come – that is why we are battling with the supply of fresh produce and always do in between seasons.
I can’t fix that while I’m a business selling organic and ‘natural’ produce without reverting to selling conventional produce, which I’ll never do.
Whether or not a business can sustain itself on only selling truly sustainable food whilst the mainstream consumer still wants variety and a broad selection of produce available all year round – is a story for another day.
My failure to have a broad variety of produce like you get in conventional superstores isn’t a failure at all. I am failing to meet the modern day consumer’s needs but I’m not failing as nature’s showcase.
It’s a challenge to make a business work like this, sure. If I have to defend farmers and defend nature, then my defense must be education and letting you hear the organic farmer’s voice and helping you to see soil and the plants behind your food.
I need you to see the vast gap between Sarel anxiously waiting for the first thunderstorms that will put nitrate in his soil and the consumer hand on hip demanding more produce. Rather than getting angry with farmers, can we rather pray for rain? The tragedy is that most people aren’t even getting angry with farmers, they get angry with the ‘retailer’, because they don’t see that this is a farming crisis that happens in between seasons, not a retail failure.
An organic farmer is a farmer that works with nature’s cycles. An organic farmer is a farmer that does not farm in a way that harms nature by manipulating the environment or attempting to control it. He adapts his life around nature, rather than bending nature to his will. He leaves nature in charge.
Nature gives us different produce at different times of year for very sensible reasons. An organic farmer is supportive of this wisdom, and only plants what the soil can support at any time of the year. The soil is where it all starts.
The soil structure in winter when it is dry and cold is very different to the soil structure in summer where there is rainfall and higher temperatures. Different plants require different conditions within which they grow. There is a vast intelligence in nature around this. I need to stress that this is not a limitation – it is intelligence.
I know we are all tired of root vegetables, but do you know why root vegetables grow in abundance in winter? It is nature’s way of supporting you.
Everything exists in nature in an interplay of intelligence that is designed to support life, your life included.  Root vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes, turnips etc. grow in cooler, dryer conditions – the soil is most suited to supporting their growth in winter. Winter is the very time that human beings need heavier food to support higher energy requirements to keep warm and maintain a healthy immune system.
This is the time that nature produces the perfect conditions to give us that food. This is why heavy vegetables that are more calorie-dense grow. This is also why citrus grows in abundance in winter because we need extra vitamin c in our diets to support an immune system that is challenged because it needs to expend energy on keeping warm.
Because an organic farmer is never manipulating the soil but rather working with nature’s cycles, he will never germinate seeds in a tunnel to manipulate the temperature so that he can make a summer seed germinate in winter.
Soil without rain is deficient in nitrates, rain puts nitrogen in the soil, if you want to grow summer crops that need nitrogen-heavy soil in winter, you have to put in artificial fertilizer and you have to use irrigated water (devoid of nitrogen) to try and germinate that seed. You have to artificially manipulate the environment.
An organic farmer will not do this.
Organic farming is a way of farming that is linked to the cycles of nature. In organic farming – nature is the boss. Conventional farming happens independent of nature and manipulates the environment in order to meet the needs of production and an instant gratification society that expects to have everything they want on tap, on demand. We want produce when we want it, without understanding how our need to gratify impacts the earth.
This gap between us and nature that shows up in our attitude about food and in what we demand for our food without understanding how those choices impact the environment behind us, doesn’t just harm us in the lack of deep nutrition in our lives and in living with overburdened immune systems that develop more and more allergies decade on decade as they react to a literal chemical onslaught of pollution.
It shows up too, in our modern day lives as a desperate void and lack of meaning that consumerism attempts to meet and fails miserably at.
That lack of link to nature robs us of the knowledge that in nature we are actually part of something greater, we are actually part of a beautiful cycle of life, we are actually given so much through nature that gives meaning to our lives and tells us that there is more to it than meets the eye.
That disjoint from nature, leaves us battling to find meaning, we’re running to malls, running to the cinema, running to the media, buying more and more stuff to try and fill this gap – when if you close it – nature will fill you up.
A walk in the bush or along a river or just basking in the sun or staring at a flower or watching waves crash across a shore or picking seasonal produce and reveling in summers first growth, will heal most wounds and make you feel connected to life and to a larger and greater and more loving intelligence.
This gap that shows up in our understanding of food and how it is produced and most importantly – how our choices impact nature behind it, has far deeper consequences than nutritional deficiency and disease rates that continually rise.
It is a nutritional as well as much as a spiritual crisis.
There is a joy to be found in seasonal eating, when you let it teach you something about why nature doesn’t give us everything we want, when we want it – that will connect you to soil, to nature, to life’s intelligence.
Root vegetables are on the out because as the temperatures gets warmer, it will be time for lighter food. Citrus will die out because our needs for vitamin c won’t be as great. Summer berries will come in, we will have organic mulberries in today in fact, nectarines, plums will come in shortly – treasure them, let them go in winter, look forward to them in summer. Winter will not give you lettuce, nature doesn’t think you need light leaves in winter and she’s right, in summer though, lettuce grows prolifically because nature knows that your energy needs are lighter, you need fruit and vegetables with more moisture because it’s warmer and you need more liquid, this is how it works.
Until it rains though and until we give seeds time to germinate and grow, there will be a lull in what is available.
I’m very deeply cognisant right now that I’m a failure when it comes to thriving in a modern world and running a business that has much to sell, I struggle with this business spectacularly, perhaps I might always feel like a failure trying to represent nature in a fast paced consumerist society, I’m never going to run a mega-store meeting the masses needs.
I need to perhaps make peace with that and let it be good enough that if my life’s work is to stand as a voice for nature, and to represent her and help people to understand the link between her and our food choices, then my success must be defined differently.
It’s a far more rewarding way to live, plugged into nature this way, I promise. It won’t give you a wide catalogue of produce, but it will add depth to your life and root you more deeply. Before school yesterday, my daughter got to pick her own strawberries for breakfast, plucked out of the garden where they are suddenly all shooting up, we’ve literally watched and waited for them for an entire season, weeks and weeks of leaving bush alone to do what it does and to ripen in its own time.
I might be teaching my daughter something valuable about trusting the cycles of life. Nature might be teaching her as it does me, something about time and how things happen in their own good time, something about trusting that.
We won’t get an abundance of strawberries, the birds will get most of them I’m afraid (reason you don’t find organic strawberries, if you aren’t killing pests everything has a go at them before you can pick them), we’ll get fewer but they will taste way better than anything you can get in a store and the memory of that taste will linger and we learn that nature has beautiful things to give us. It is not natures way or life’s way for us to have what we want all of the time. We learn through change and diversity and adaptation and cycles, things have to change and we must learn to be more flexible and treasure what we have when we have it, instead of being so demanding, demands that exact a heavy toll on the earth, the price of which our grandchildren and great grandchildren will pay.
When you are eating something out of season, be mindful of what that choice has supported. That produce will have high food miles on it as it will have had to be transported from distances, this will impact the flavor and it will have harmed the environment with the fuel required to get it to you alone, never mind the pollution from the pesticides, dead soil and artificial fertilizers behind it.
Have a look at your local store that does show the origin of food, how much of it has been flown in from other countries? Do you really want to support that? The compromise is environmental pollution and lack of nutrition, which is why most conventional produce barely tastes of anything.
It is coming out of soil that has been artificially pumped with fertilizer which only puts in the 3 main inputs to make a plant grow quickly, trace elements are missing, you get a beautiful looking plant, beautiful looking produce that falls down on flavor because it’s coming out of inadequate soil and from a weak plant.
Organic produce won’t look that perfect but is higher in antioxidants and nutrition, comes from a stronger plant and has everything it needs to from well nourished soil which is why it tastes and smells better and it isn’t polluting our water table with pesticides either.
Of course this isn’t always true and of course there are crap organic farmers like in any other profession that don’t nourish the soil well, that take short cuts or that do mono-cropping which rapes the soil anyhow – the difference shows up in the taste.
My point is though, that in order for the revolution to happen, we have to perhaps consume less and connect more. Demand less, and appreciate more.
It’s a ‘giving up’ to get. You give up having tomatoes all year round, but the excitement and reward you get when nature provides you with tomatoes on time and when it is absolutely right for your climate and for your season, and the taste of that tomato will more than compensate. When you understand how that change too, supports the soil that holds life, you’ll recognize that you hold a party in a beautiful, sensible cycle of life and that in nature you have life support and a rather generous friend.
‘Vasbyt’, summer is nearly here, and there will be an abundance of new produce towards the end of October and then let’s enjoy summer eating.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Leave a Reply

Top