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History of Organic Farming

The History of Organic Farming: From an Occupation to a Revolution

Here's a look into a brief history of organic farming, that tells you how this practice was revived and awareness was spread about it world over.
Puja Lalwani
Last Updated: Dec 29, 2018
Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects.
Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.
- Definition of Organic Agriculture, as per the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements.
Organic farming
It is a little amusing to see how a practice that is ancient has to be presented as new for people to adopt it. Organic farming has always been the actual method of farming, but it is only recently that the people have learned how important and healthy it is.
During the industrial revolution, farming methods took a turn for what was perceived as the better. Organic farming was lost among the process of rapid modernization and the need for a substantial amount of food for the growing population and during the world wars. This enhanced the process of food production through farming and (intensive farming).
Chemicals such as ammonium nitrate and DDT were used in agricultural practices for this purpose. To this date, in order to ensure a good crop it is imperative that fertilizers be used along with pesticides that protect crops from damage. However, the amount of additives used became highly dangerous for human consumption as well as for the environment.
With the wish to produce more food in less time, the amounts of fertilizer and growth chemicals used could not be imagined. As this practice continued, the reality of the situation came to light, after which a movement was begun by farmers and scientists to popularize organic farming. Here, we provide a brief history of organic farming.
Organic Farming History
Organic farming does not only mean farming without the use of pesticides and fertilizers. It allows plants and animals to thrive in a healthy environment so that additional chemicals do not have to be used to enhance their growth. As such, it works in tune with nature to provide as natural products to the consumer as popular.
Rudolf Steiner in his book, 'Spiritual Foundations for Renewal of Agriculture', published in 1924, has clearly elaborated organic farming. He states that it is the farmer's job to ensure a healthy and bountiful interaction between plants, animals and soil; that for animals to be healthy, plants have to be healthy, for which soil has to be healthy.
Soil becomes healthy when it obtains essential nutrients from animals in the form of manure. While the knowledge of organic agriculture was well-known much earlier, it was only in the year 1939 that the term 'organic farming' was coined by Lord Northbourne.
As said earlier, several reasons led to development of chemical and intensive farming. As some parts of the population realized how food was being grown, a movement of organic farming started, that used minimal chemicals in farming, providing high quality food to final consumer. Here is an outline of how this movement began to reach the present stage.
☛ Knowledge of organic farming came from India and Central Europe. A British botanist, Sir Albert Howard, who was in Bengal, India, observed the farming methods there and documented them, saying that the methods were superior to those practiced in other parts of the world. He saw that all dead plant and animal matter was put back in the soil, to nourish it.
☛ In 1939, the first experiment (called the Haughley experiment) with organic farming was carried out, where Lady Eve Balfour (influenced by Sir Albert Howard's findings) carried out organic farming and chemical farming on two adjoining pieces of land to compare their processes. These findings were published in her book, 'The Living Soil' in 1943.
☛ In the year 1940, a Japanese microbiologist called Masanobu Fukuoka quit his job and dedicated several years of his life to developing a method of organic farming, known as Fukuoka farming, further spreading awareness of this concept.
☛ The Soil Association of the United Kingdom was created in 1946, an organization that till date works to ensure a healthy relationship between plants, animals and soil.
☛ In the year 1962, a prominent scientist by the name of Rachel Carlson published her book 'Silent Spring'; a book that clearly brought to light the various effects of the use of DDT on the environment in the process of farming. This book turned out to be a bestseller in many countries.
☛ All the aforementioned events made the difference between organic farming and conventional farming clearer and spread awareness among the public.
☛ The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) was created in the year 1972 in Versailles, France, that promotes and exchanges the knowledge of organic agricultural practices across the world.
These developments led to increasing pressure among all parts of the world on governments for intervention to regulate laws relating to organic farming practices, which finally led to the establishment of specific standards to regulate it.
With rules increased the knowledge of organic farming and its uses, and market for organically grown products began to rise by 90s. There may be advantages, disadvantages of organic farming, but it is known that organic food is healthy than conventionally grown food. The movement to spread awareness continues till date, with more people opting for it.