Successful organic farming

Tags: Farming, Events

This very last session of the Clubs first part with Henri Murto was really interesting and full of new insights, explanations and dynamic comments of the audience. Unfortunately because of the huge amount of inputs, I can only cover some of them in this report. I tried my best.

Henri works at the biodynamic and organic Rekola farm (400 year old family farm, certified by Demeter which operates globally but which also integrates the national standards of a country), where the workload shared by two families (Henri’s and Joonas’). On the farm they cultivate cereals, strawberries, a big market’s garden and they have cows (for meat production and greenhouses for the cultivation of seedlings. In Rekola’s farming tradition there has been influences from the practice but also from academia. Ecological farming requires at lot of know-how and also time (to practice and apply the knowledge correctly). The farm functions with negative CO 2 emissions and Henri’s methodology refers to farm individuality, which means that a nutritious circle has been established that produces its own organic fertilizers (different from other fertilizers which end up in the Baltic sea and destroy that eco-system). Henri sees cows as today’s superheroes of climate change (if properly
managed) as they transform herb to fertilizer. The quality of the soil is crucial and when a piece of land is just not fertile enough for growing vegetables on it, it might be just perfect for having cows living and eating on it and producing the perfect 100% organic fertilizer.

Later in the presentation regarding the question of how a conventional farm would start its transition to a bio-dynamic one, Henri suggested that one should start with pastor and building up a good soil quality (thanks to cow-made fertilizers). This would also imply several years of resting. A transition has to be planned through very carefully and patience is needed. Also for the market’s garden, (permaculture) alternatives to conventional agricultural methodologies have been adopted, which allow Henri to grow more and also a bigger diversity of vegetables.
At some point(s) of the presentation, economic questions were raised. Henri told as that Rekola farm has been 100% debt-free from beginning and they are very grateful and happy of not being dependent on any loans. However, Henri shared with us that there are sometimes funding paradoxes (with the EU for instance) when their criteria would demand having less plants of the same kind /hectare but this is not compatible with Henri’s type of farming and growing different kinds of plants all together, which is more sustainable and environmental- friendly than what they suggest. Furthermore, Henri also talked about the hidden costs of conventional farming which are caused by water purification programs necessary because of pesticides that ended up in the ground water. Henri also explained that the reason why there are agricultural subsidies in a context of overproduction, are the large tolls which have been
installed by powerful trade unions such as NAFTA, APEC and the EU.

It is, like Henri said: “undeniable that something is wrong with the food production”.
But Henri also said, and I agree with him, “if something does not work out ‘socially’, it does not work at all”. Very beautifully, Henri paraphrased that “the ecological and the social aspect are the sides of the same coin”. Both dimensions have to be considered equally to make a successful transition toward sustainability. This is the reason why at the Rekola farm, they also have this CSA (community supported agriculture) projects that have been a huge success.
Henri also offers courses and workshops in bio-dynamic farming and gardening and they are very popular, as the awareness and the demand for a sustainable and organic food production is growing.

Henri’s presentation contained many very interesting inputs and I am glad to get some insights of an exemplary farmer. Also in Switzerland, badly-managed food production is a hot topic and just last Saturday more than 4000 citizens demonstrated in the capital stating: “Eating is a political act”.

Mirjam Schwitter (Feb. 2020)