By Christer Söderberg, July 30, 2017
(this blog appeared first in the October 2017 edition of “Mallorca LOOK” magazine)
There is a growing awareness for the value of organically grown food, both for personal nutritional purposes, as well as for the safeguarding of our environment.
On Mallorca you can find no less than five weekly organic Farmers Markets – “Mercat Ecológic” (see list below). There are also 170 stores and businesses selling organic produce, and while the Balearic Islands boast no less than 29,000 hectares of organically certified (or in the process of being certified) productive land (9% of the total surface), roughly 95% of the food sold on the island is imported. Besides adding a considerable cost to foodstuffs for the transportation, processing and packaging; the ships, airplanes and trucks cause considerable pollution to an already overburdened and stressed island ecosystem – and what is imported is not all organic.
It’s perhaps not by chance that the name of our planet, Earth, is also the name of that which nourishes all life on our planet, namely, the earth, or soil. It is furthermore interesting that the word soil, as in earth, and the word soul, as in spirit, are so close.
For indeed it is easy to argue that soil is the soul of the planet. Without a healthy soil there would be no life, at least as we know it in this beautiful green and blue place we call our home. It bears to reason then, that what we do to our soil we do to our soul.
Over the past 40 plus years, we have lost 30% of the planet’s fertile productive and arable soil to erosion and chemical laden industrial scale agriculture; that’s 24 billion tons of productive fertile soil per year. At this rate, according to the United Nations and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) we have “60 years of farming left if soil degradation continues”. In this same article in Scientific American the author goes on to say that “generating three centimeters of topsoil takes 1000 years” and concludes that: “Organic (farming) may not be the only solution but it’s the single best (option) I can think of.”
So what can we do? We can do a lot, and if we do it collectively, together, we can make a BIG difference.
Supporting your local farmers can save the world, literally. Consuming locally grown, pesticide-free, organic produce can save your life, literally.
What is soil anyway? Good question. It’s more than brown dirt. In fact, it’s teeming with life. The measure of richness in soil, its fertility, is the number of microorganisms living in that soil. Soil contains many organisms, macro- and microorganisms: bacteria, algae, microscopic insects, earthworms, beetles, ants, mites, and fungi, to name a few. And they are many; you can fit 40 million bacteria on a pinhead, and it is said that there are more microorganisms in a teaspoon of healthy soil than there are humans on the planet – and trillions in a handful. It’s the microorganisms, the yeasts, algae, protozoa, bacteria, nematodes, and fungi that do the important work of making nutrients and minerals available to the plants, which in turn makes those same nutrients available to us humans, building and maintaining our body health.
So what can we do to improve the quality of the soil? Begin by making life easy and comfortable for the microorganisms! One soil treatment with many potential benefits is Biochar. Rediscovered some 100 years ago in very fertile areas of the Amazon basin, this “terra preta” (black soil) has been found to create the ideal living conditions for microorganisms. Furthermore, by making biochar through pyrolysis, a slow burning process fixing the carbon in biomass for hundreds and even thousands of years, we can enrich the soil while simultaneously sequestering carbon dioxide from the air. Climate Change mitigation and soil enrichment in one process! And there is more; biochar has been shown to help water retention in the soil and reduce compaction, two challenges of modern agriculture and part of the cause of increasing desertification.
When we use pesticides, herbicides and other concentrated chemicals, we interfere in that rich biodiversity of macro and microorganisms, upsetting a vital balance between soil nutrients and our body’s ability to absorb these nutrients to maximize our health and well-being. That vegetable or fruit in your supermarket may look very clean and blemish-free, but chances are it is lacking important vitamins and minerals. Food today has lost between 30% and 50% of its nutritional value compared to 50 years ago. No wonder we have to eat more to feel satisfied!
Conclusively, there is indeed a lot we can do to enjoy more tasty and nutritious food, reduce pollution from unnecessary transportation and use of fossil fuel based chemicals and fertilizers, and contribute toward reduction and capture of carbon dioxide and other green house gases (GHG) in our atmosphere.
And just imagine, we can do it every day, every time we sit down for a good meal, by making that choice, for our health, and the health of our planet. Buy local, buy organic, and live making an impact!
 2017 Agenda d’agricultura ecológica Illes Balears, Edició: APAEMA, C/ den Veiet, Porreres, firstname.lastname@example.org, +34 971 168 326