Posts Tagged ‘Organic’

Biodynamic Farming

What is Biodynamic Agriculture?

Most people know what organic farming is, but only a few know what Biodynamic agriculture is. Biodynamics was introduced in the 1920’s by an Austrian scientist and philosopher, Rudolf Steiner. This manner of farming takes a unified approach to agriculture by considering the interconnectedness of the soil, the plants, animals, the earth and even the entire cosmos as a living system.  It is considered as one the most sustainable forms of agriculture. The focus of Biodynamic Agriculture is developing and maintaining a healthy soil organism through the use of manure, crop-rotation, cover-cropping and special preparations.  The farm is considered as an entire living organism, with the farmer and his practices as playing a vital role to the farm ecosystem. 


What makes it different from organic farming?  

As in organic farming, there is no use of chemicals, pesticides or fungicides.  However, biodynamics goes beyond organic farming.  It treats the soil as a living organism and ensures the health of the soil at all times.  Thus, biodynamic farming looks at the farm in terms of forces that affect the soil and the farm, processes that go into farming, rather than just the substances that are put into the soil or plants. Biodynamic agriculture makes use of compost (manure from animals already in the farm), cover cropping, ecological pest management, and special preparations that revitalize life forces, stimulate the roots and help in the production of soil microorganisms and humus. These preparations are homeopathic substances made from herbs, minerals, plant and animal, at very minuscule portions. Aside from the special preparations, Biodynamic agriculture follows daily, monthly and seasonal patterns of nature, such as the phases of the moon for sowing, fertilizing and harvesting.

Our farm

Our farm practices biodynamic farming in growing flowers (and vegetables too!)  We see our farm as an entire ecosystem.  Our farm follows a biodynamic calendar for optimum times for sowing, harvesting and transplanting. This is because Biodynamic Agriculture follows daily, monthly and seasonal patterns of nature, such as the phases of the moon, the movement of the planets and the stars.  We also use biodynamic preparations for our soil and leaves. These preparations are homeopathic substances made from herbs, minerals, plant and animal, at very minuscule portions. We have learned to follow the cycles and phases of the moon in scheduling our pest management and control, taking into account that the life cycles of these creatures that coincide with the moon’s phases.  We also follow crop rotation, and practice cover cropping.

Aside from flowers, our flower farm has now a vegetable patch, devoted to plants that do not only adorn our tables but we can eat as well!   The farm grows lettuces, arugula, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, peppers, celery, alfalfa sprouts, spinach and several kinds of herbs. More than this, we have planted the vegetables to create patches of ecosystems for all nature in our farm. We do so by growing in all our vegetable beds, a mix of legumes, leaf plants, root crops, annual and perennial plants in one bed. Thus, legumes will provide nitrogen (fertilizer) through their roots.  Root crops, taking nutrients from the soil, help aerate the beds, benefiting all plants. Herbs and flowers serve as homes for beneficial insects and also repel the harmful ones.


Get your Hands Dirty

The soil is teeming with life. In a handful of dirt, you will find earthworms, centipedes, beetles, millions of fungi and bacteria, air and water. We truly know that good soil makes bigger and stronger plants. Most of the plant’s nourishment comes from the soil. When they have ample and the right amount of minerals and nutrients from the soil, plants are able to defend themselves from pests and diseases. This is because organic matter feeds the bacteria and fungi in the soil. The bacteria and fungi, in turn, break down the compost into compounds, and minerals, to small portions so the plants can absorb them. Thus, the more minerals and nutrients in the soil, the more the plant can take up. 

However, improper farming practices have taken a toll on our planet’s soil. We only have thirty percent (30%) of farmable soil left in our planet. Thirty! Our soil is rapidly being depleted. Not only this, nature takes approximately five hundred (500) years to build one inch of top soil and a good crop yield takes an average of six inches of good top soil. How do we destroy our important resource? We lose or contaminate the soil by erosion, pollution, and through the voluminous use of artificial fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. For example, in conventional farming, pests and disease are controlled with pesticides and herbicides. These chemicals kill the bacteria and fungi, which reduces the mineral content of the soil dramatically. To counteract this, they use a chemical fertilizer that contains only nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium – NPK. Plants can grow with these limited available minerals but they are less nutritious and far more susceptible to disease. It becomes a vicious cycle of more pesticides and more chemical fertilizers to sustain life. This method is especially absurd when you realize that the same effect can occur naturally on its own and provide us with a healthier outcome.

We need to recognize the fundamental role of soil in life and know that it is crucial that we maintain and develop our soil’s fertility. How do we respect the soil? Natural farming methods such as organic farming and biodynamic, when practiced sustainably, nourishes the soil more than it destroys it. Some of the methods we use at the farm for soil fertility are: (1) adding more nutrients to the soil through manure, compost and green waste; (2) suppressing the use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides; (3) composting through organic material; (4) using seaweed and fermented fish waste as foliar spray; (5) using legumes as cover crops. Cover crops protect the soil from wind, water and nutrient loss; and (5) crop rotation because different crops put in or take out different nutrients.

How Much Do I Love Thee? Let me Count the Ways…

You adore nature.  You intensely care about the environment. And that is why you love flowers, those pretty buds that look up to you and tell you the world is enraptured in love. That is why your heart flip-flops when you receive flowers, or you go about giving everyone bundles of these wondrous gifts of nature.  But, did you know that cut flowers could have about the worst effects on the environment and farmers?  Definitely not sweet.
Pesticide use in cut flowers are common although not given so much attention.   There is a secret world you do not see, the act of dousing those pretty little bundles with chemicals, poisoning the soil, and getting farmers sick in the process. As an example:

In a 1995 report, Bittersweet Harvests for Global Supermarkets, the World Resources Institute found that a number of rose and carnation producers use an average of six fungicides, four insecticides, and several herbicides. The situation is worse in certain other parts of the world, where flower-plantation workers are exposed to 127 types of pesticides. Nearly two-thirds of flower farm workers suffer from headaches, nausea, rashes, asthma, and other symptoms of pesticide-related illnesses.

A study which monitors the use of pesticides in flowers have found that:

…[F]lower growers apply almost 800,000 pounds of pesticides each year. About half is the fumigant methyl bromide, which was banned in the Netherlands ten years ago because of concerns about air and groundwater pollution. (The rest is primarily two other fumigants, metam sodium and chloropicrin, and several carcinogenic fungicides.)…

Worse is the harmful effects these pesticides have on the farmers. Farmers are said to suffer impaired vision, asthma, neurological problems, miscarriage and the like.  Pesticides on flowers can also be a problem for anyone who handles the flowers—including consumers—since many pesticides are easily absorbed through the skin.

The Philippines is yet to determine the amount of pesticide and fungicide use for flowers grown in our highlands.  It should be quite high, considering that almost all of our cut-flowers are not local flowers or endemic.  Farmers import a lot of the seeds of our cut-flowers from temperate countries. This means that they do not grow well under our tropical conditions.  Farmers would have to use a lot of pesticides to make sure they thrive in our environments, and look big and robust too.

Sustainably Grown Roses

So what should one do?  Of course, what would be perfect is to have your own flower garden and make sure you grow your flowers organically or naturally. Local tropical flowers and plants would need little to no chemicals. Then pick from your garden and bundle up your flowers!  Your other best bet is to buy flowers that have been grown with a conscious commitment to the environment and its farmers.  Flower Depot Inc. is proud and happy to be growing, tilling and harvesting its flowers with the least harm to the environment.  We have committed to grow our flowers sustainably, through practices that take care of our soil, keep our flowers vibrant and our farm workers healthy. For example: (1) Our farm has learned to rely on natural controls for soil-borne diseases and to ward off pests. Among these, we use natural insect traps, neem tree extract and beneficial bacteria and fungi to treat our soil; (2) We also practice natural methods on cover cropping, composting, and crop rotation; (3) The flower farm’s main source of soil fertility is legume cover crops, which provide nitrogen, micro nutrients and organic matter. These are plants that modern farming would have otherwise deemed as weeds. The natives have taught us to use these plants as a viable source of fertilizer. Also, the cover crops provide habitat for beneficial insects, keeping pests very low; and (4) We have learned to follow the cycles and phases of the moon in scheduling our pest management and control, taking into account that the life cycles of these creatures that coincide with the moon’s phases.  Aside from sustainable agriculture, our farm encourages careful water use, energy saving initiatives, greenhouse gas emission reduction efforts, waste management and product packaging minimization.

Birds building their nests on our roses!

Birds building their nests on our roses!

Our farm is a happy and vibrant ecosystem. In fact, our farm is home to birds (who build their nests on the roses!), toads, earthworms, snakes, bees (who have built beehives inside our greenhouses!) and and many many more. Our ultimate goal is to protect our environment and also enhance the lives of our workers, as they are free from unhealthy and toxic pesticides. We hope to transform the floral industry to growing and harvesting flowers that safeguards the environment, ecology and the well being of farm workers.

So, if you really love giving or receiving flowers, make sure your bouquets are vibrant and living, AND grown with the least harm to Mother Nature and flower farmers.