Riverford Wicked Leeks

meatbox newsletter - renewing my vows

It is about this time of year that doubt surfaces and I have to resist ‘what’s the point?’ becoming my standard response. Everything is questioned, including organics. Can it feed the world? Is it really sustainable financially? Has it had its day? It is easier to see a place, and a future, for real primary organic products like beef, lamb and vegetables but in the case of pork and poultry, dependent on expensive, imported, soil depleting grain, do the negatives really outweigh the pluses? Oh the burden of doubt us wishy-washy liberals have to carry!

I think many would see the biggest achievement of the organic sector over the last twenty five years as forcing conventional agriculture to clean up its act. So you could say ‘job done – put the kettle on’. The problem is that the kettle will probably be used to pour boiling water over dehydrated pot noodles (statistically-speaking – I’m not pointing my finger) and although nitrogen based fertilisers might not be running off farms into water supplies in their previous quantities, they are still being produced by the fossil fuel gobbling Haber-Bosch process. (If you think you have problems, check out that Fritz Haber on Wikipedia). The job is only half done: at least a third of the world (and growing fast) is being fed by crops dependent on synthesised fertilisers, produced using fossil fuels. It may be possible to find a new, fossil fuel-friendly, way of fixing nitrogen from the air but it also seems prudent to continue refining the old, tried and tested ways using legumes, manure and various bacteria. I don’t hear many outside organic farming singing from that hymn sheet. Nurturing the soil is one end of the food chain that still needs the input of organic farming to keep up the momentum.

At the other end we have the pot noodles. I’m not aware of any organic pot noodles but I’m sure there is something pretty close. You could argue ‘chicken and egg’ but an interest in food and cooking does often steer one towards the organic movement which, in turn, has been and is a proponent of healthy eating.

It’s a big subject but I’m renewing my vows for 2011.

Ben Watson