This question was posed to me recently after I engaged a vaguely interested senior farmer in a conversation about irrigating young nut trees with horsetail tea. Were we organic? Biodynamic? Amateurs? I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. I hadn’t considered a one-size-fits-all label for us or our Weed Patch.
We’re not aiming for certification under the BC Organic Management Standards, but we are becoming familiar with the standards in the event we pursue certification down the road. However, there is nothing in the BC Certified Organic standards for example, requiring a farmer to retain song bird nesting habitat (natural or artificial) in close proximity to crops. You can remove every wildlife tree; every native shrub and not have a single nesting bird on your land and be certified organic. On the other hand, the UK based ‘nature friendly farming’ certificate program requires farmers to devote 2% of their land to cultivate forage plants for pollinating insects or habitat for insects and birds. But the program is eerily silent on the farmer’s perogative to use pesticides or insecticides in order to grow their adjacent crops. There is biodynamic farming, which we take inspiration and ideas from but don’t have the energy to adhere to in a strict sense. Waking up at 4 am to spray the nut tree leaves with a fermented concoction I buried in a bulls’ horn for a year sounds fascinating but won’t make it on my to-do list.
Our idea of a straight planting row would send a traditional farmer laughing all the way to the string line factory. On the other hand, a hard core permaculture farmer would consider our crop lines in desperate need of several more curves or the odd labyrinth thrown in.
If we need a label to describe what we’re attempting to do at the Weed Patch, maybe we’ll try a big mouthful like:
“An Agroforestry demonstration project grounded in organic production practices, supported by principles of permaculture and biodynamics, and strongly focused on enhancing the local forage and nesting opportunities for our non-human partners in cultivation.”
The ten year old gardening apprentice rolled his eyes as I read that out loud and declared – “we just grow things we like in a way we like…”
Ah so there it is! I’ll let him answer the philosophical questions from now on.