Step 1 - Healthy soils
Organic farming starts with the preparation of healthy, living soils that are full of life, including friendly bacteria and fungi that help plants to grow, and larger organisms such as worms that help to aerate and fertilise the soil.
Organic soil is rich in organic matter, which helps to keep carbon out of the atmosphere reducing global warming, and provides an ideal growing environment for healthy plants.
Organic matter in soil comes from compost and mulch that can either be made onsite or bought, and through green manures - crops that are grown and ploughed in to help boost nutrients and organic matter.
Soils found in conventional (non-organic) agriculture are often lifeless, used simply hold plants up while they are fed chemical-based fertilisers to make them grow.
Conventional farming also uses chemical-based pesticides, fungicides and herbicides to control pests and diseases. These chemicals build up in the soil and damage the ability of soil to support biological life normally found in the natural environment and organic farming.
At Second Nature, we start the process of creating healthy soil by having the soil analysed in a laboratory. Our agronomist then recommends certain nutrients be added to produce the ideal growing environment for plants to grow. This is called a soil balance. We then add a rich amount of organic compost and mulch the rows heavily with organic sugar-cane mulch, helping to maintain moisture in the soil and to reduce erosion. We then promote heathy plants through use of a range of organic fertilisers.
Step 2 - Healthy plants
Organic farming is based on the premise that health soils will produce healthy, strong plants, more naturally resistant to pests and diseases.
Plants like people need food and water. Instead of using chemical-based fertilisers found in conventional farming, organic farming uses natural fertilisers and minerals to feed plants.
At Second Nature, some of our fertilisers are based on products from the sea, such as fish and seaweed. Other fertilisers are mineral based and are designed to provide a broad spectrum of nutrients to support plant health.
We also feed our plants 'compost tea' which is a small amount of compost added to water. The compost is dissolved with the help of an aerating pump similar to those used in fish tanks. This oxygen helps friendly bacteria to grow and multiply so that when we irrigate the crops, the compost tea is rich in both nutrients and microbes, which in turn benefits the plants.
We apply composts and fertilisers to the soil either directly into the soil, or via our drip irrigation system once it has been diluted in water.
Another technique used by organic farms to produce healthy plants is called crop rotation. This involves not planting the same crop in the same land each year, but rather rotating crops around different areas of land. This helps to improve the quality of soil and reduce the risk of pests and diseases.
Step 3 - Healthy Food
In conventional farming, the fertilisers used can actually be quite limited because some plants don't need a wide range of nutrients to grow large and to look good. Many plants do however, need a wide range of nutrients to be truly healthy and to contain the vitamins and minerals important to our health.
Organic farms that use a broader variety of minerals in their fertilisers produce healthy plants that are full of vitamins and minerals. The result is often called nutrient enriched food - food that has all of the vitamins and nutrients to support good health.
Foods that do not contain residues of agricultural chemicals are of course better for you, as many of these chemicals have been proven to affect our health and support diseases such as cancer.
Step 4 - Healthy Environment
By not using poisonous chemicals, the risk of polluting the environment, including the soil and our waterways is greatly reduced.
Organic farming aims to support the environment by setting aside space for wildlife. The wildlife, including birds, wasps, spiders and lizards help on the farm by eating other animals that may damage crops, such as caterpillars.
Some organic farms also aim to build a large ratio of organic carbon in the soil and this helps to reduce the carbon in our atmosphere which causes global warming.
In Australia there are a number of organisations that certify organic food as organic. If you do purchase organic food and that food is certified as organic, and it shows the logo of the certifying organisation, it provides you with a level of confidence that you are getting what you pay for. At Second Nature we are certified with and organisataion called the Biological Farmers Association of Australia (BFA). In order to market produce as certified organic with the BFA, producers need to operate in accordance with an Organic Management Plan, which requires use of only organically based materials in the growing system and no use of artificial chemicals or genetically modified crops. To find out more about organic certification, visit the BFA via our useful links section.