Organic gardening imitates the cycles found in nature to produce food, as in Lori's organic veggie garden in the picture above. In the organic cycle, the compost feeds the soil, the soil feeds the plants, and the plants feed the people. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 10,000 to 20,000 physician diagnosed pesticide poisonings occur each year among the agricultural workers on conventional farms in the United States. Crops are sprayed to keep away insects and weeds, and then the food is shipped to processing plants to be enhanced with additives, fillers, and dyes. The chemicals used in the process of growing, raising, and processing foods make their way into the land, water, air, and the people eating the food. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 34,000 cancer deaths in the U.S. in 2011 were caused by environmental pollutants and chemical food additives.
Innovations throughout history have given us many food choices with better farming methods, refrigeration, restaurants, and supermarkets. Certified organic products cannot use genetically modified organisms (GMOs), irradiation, artificial dyes, or preservatives, and cannot have packaging material that contains fungicides or fumigants. Organic gardeners do not use toxic herbicides or pesticides. They do not grow their crops in synthetic or sewage sludge-based fertilizers. They do not use chemical, mineral, or synthetic fertilizers or GMO seeds. The soil is kept healthy with compost and alive with a high content of microorganisms and earthworms.
Organic gardeners save seeds from the previous year’s harvest chosen for their suitability to their garden’s location. Planting nasturtiums and marigolds among the veggies attracts pollinators and repels pests. Rotating crops and planting cover crops discourages pests, weeds, and diseases. Organic gardeners harvest their food fresh and store a supply of high quality produce for the winter. Completing the organic cycle, the remains of the harvested plants, along with kitchen scraps, and dry leaves are used to make compost and this year’s plants provide next year’s seeds.