Would you buy a car welded together by a blacksmith? You’d have to be crazy. But when it comes to pretending to be more organic in the food and wine biz, outmoded methods are all the rage, at least for some.
Honest organic farmers don’t use quick fixes like synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, so they have no choice but to be more efficient than conventional farmers. With scant spare time on their hands they have no choice but to use modern labor-saving equipment. But a fringe element in the organic biz has decided to revert to the past, and to pass the cost of their gross inefficiency onto their customers.
As a former organic farmer, take my advice and DO NOT buy anything from any farmer who claims to use horses. A horse is less than a hundredth as efficient as the smallest diesel tractor. A horse releases more pollution into the atmosphere because it eats, farts and poops all year long while a tractor is shut off when the work is done.
Growing feed for horses requires more farmland, which means less natural habitat and yet more pollution. Old-timers can attest that almost half of all farmland used to be set aside just to grow feed for horses. What’s so green about that? We now basically use 100 percent of our arable farmland to feed humans, and that’s a huge leap forward that we simply cannot afford to take back!
There are many examples of such modern-day Luddites masquerading as valiant organic protectors. The worst are those who not only brag about using horses, which they claim cut down on fuel, but who also believe windmills and solar panels have a place in the business of producing food.
I have just one question for these people: Are you all nuts?
If someone wants to put a windmill or a solar panel on his roof, that’s his business. And hey, if you want to go out into the wilderness to live off the grid, be my guest! But to bring such woefully inefficient paradigms to the business of producing food is a recipe for civilizational collapse, plain and simple.
A few self-righteous wine makers are starting to play this game, pandering to the misapprehension among some urban environmentalists that if you’re modern or big you must be bad. Organic grape growers who use horses, or who pretend to, do not deserve your business.
All agronomic arguments aside, these “green” viticulturalists claim that horses cut down on soil compaction. But that’s simply not true. If a workhorse steps on you while you’re lying on the ground, there’s a good chance it’ll kill you. And while I would never recommend being driven over by a tractor, you will survive such an encounter because the weight is evenly distributed over a much larger area provided by the tires. So, you see, tractors are not only an order of magnitude more efficient than horses, they also compact the soil far less!
Any organic farm or vineyard being operated by honest people who uphold the true principles of organic farming is as environmental and sustainable as you can get. In fact, taking efficiencies of scale into account, and the efficiencies of modern machinery and trucking, larger-scale operations are always more environmental and sustainable. Anyone still using a horse, or pretending to, deserves to have his foot stepped on.
Being organic has nothing to do with being old fashioned, inefficient or backwards. It’s about producing top quality. And modern machinery is the only way to achieve that.
Never, ever, go backwards to move the food industry forward.
Mischa Popoff is an organic inspector and organic business consultant. Visit his website at www.isitorganic.ca.