A personal quest: Can organic farming grow enough to feed the people?

Pat is interested to find out more about whether organic agriculture can grow enough to feed the people. Pat will be pursuing this question, producing some pieces for BHOGG members along the way and asks you to join her on her quest for answers.  Here’s what she writes this month:

This is a subject I’m interested in finding out more about. Meanwhile, I came upon a discussion of a piece of research into whether or not organic, small-scale farming in India could match the wheat yields of industrial agriculture. The result was that small farmers’ yields were lower.

Writing about this, Vandana Shiva pointed out that it was only the wheat that was measured. Other foods growing in the margins of small farmers’ fields were not counted. There are many green plants – ‘weeds’ – growing around the fields that are eaten in different seasons. They add a precious variety of nutritional elements and flavours to peoples’ diets but because of their variability and seasonality this contribution can’t be measured. These plants are not exactly cultivated, but encouraged. They are, of course, wiped out by industrial farming with its larger fields and chemical inputs.

Thinking to learn from this, I have encouraged (and am currently eating) ramsons and sorrel, alexanders (stalks) and the leaves of salt-bush growing around my allotment. These are rampant characters and need to be harvested to keep them from taking over. There’s also land cress and lambs’ lettuce that seed freely and make excellent winter and early spring salads.

And there’s the bonus – they look after themselves.

Further Reference: Vandana Shiva has lots of books out. For ‘weed’ recipes I recommend Robin Harford’s website www.eatweeds.co.uk for recipes and inspiration.

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