The Secret to Success of Organic Farming:Part 1 of 2
With a return to more natural and sustainable lifestyles, organic food,
which is both healthy and beneficial to the environment, is becoming
more prominent around the world. On today’s program we will visit an
organic farm in Austria.
It uses no chemical fertilizers,
pesticides, or animal-based fertilizers. And yet, this farm reaps a
plentiful harvest year round. Let’s meet Helmut to find out how this
Mr. Helmut=male H(m): Hi, I’m Helmut from Austria. I am an organic farmer and today I would like to show you a little bit around on my farm.
H(m): The size of the farm is 1.7 hectares. But we only use around four thousand square meters of this land. We have around 30 different varieties of vegetables.
And we have more than 100 families, they get vegetables boxes from this farm, every two weeks. On average, per month we deliver 150 boxes. On this small bit of land, there are around 20,000 plants growing all year.
have enough snow and rain here, but most of the moisture is in winter.
So in summer sometimes it’s very dry and sometimes we have periods of
six weeks without rain. So I found some solution for this dry time. I
put a lot of straw and grass cuts on the ground, and this really works
very well. I will show you this later.
At the end of the season, we cover the whole vegetable garden or vegetable land with straw. So that the soil does not freeze in winter. That means that all the micro-organism stay active all year.
is not necessary to use any manure from cows or pigs or whatever, or
some chemical fertilizer. What the micro-organisms produce naturally is
totally enough to plant vegetables. The only thing is that these
beings, they need also food, and we give this by straw or grass
H(m): There is
a group of plants where the straw method works very well. In spring
when we clean the whole field from the straw, we put the straw on one
third of the field, altogether, and here we plant these different
plants. They are the zucchinis, the squash, physalis and inside the
greenhouses, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes. It is very easy. The only
thing what we need is to have big plants, so that they are not covered
by the straw. And we put the straw on the surface,
and make little holes and put the plants in. Of course this method does
not work with carrots, parsley roots, celery, onions, leeks or cabbage.
Here we have to use another method. We have to hoe it a few times,
which is not very difficult, and then finally we bring in grass
cuttings between the plants. The effect of the straw is of course very
good; even when it’s very dry in the summer it stays wet underneath.
This we can see here. When you move this, it’s really completely wet
underneath, and this is very good soil.
And of course all this
moisture also goes to the plant. And this moisture never disappears. I
think this method is also very good for Mediterranean or semi-desert
areas. You can keep a lot of moisture in the ground, even when it rains
only once a year or once every second year.
can see it’s really wet. It’s like if I would have watered it before.
But this is just the normal moisture from the ground. The moisture
comes always up and if you cover it a little bit, then it cannot
disappear. So now let’s go into the greenhouse and I can show you a bit
where no water has been used for three years, and it’s still moist
H(m): Here in the greenhouse we have some dripping water system for the plants, because otherwise they would not survive. But in between the rows we have straw to keep it wet. And on this part, for years there
was no water. But I can show you now, if I dig down there, it’s totally
dry here on top but when you come down, you can see the soil is
completely black and it looks moist.
H(m): You can see the grass is now in this box. And here are the beans. And it’s just like this, that
I put the grass in between the rows. It’s important to put not too much
into the row so that it doesn’t get wet or fungus. This is enough. The
soil is covered and the water cannot disappear anymore. Of course,
after a while it might be necessary to go through and hoe the weeds a
little bit. After ten, fifteen days, you can hardly see anything from this grass anymore, because all these animals that live in the ground, they have already put it down and they had an excellent meal.
here you can see the third generation of green beans. They will be ripe
in late September. What you can see here, I was hoeing these three rows
just half an hour, or an hour before, and you can see the soil is
Here, where I didn’t hoe, you can see that the soil is dark. That means that the water or the moisture is
coming out from the ground, and is disappearing into the atmosphere.
Here, it is similar to having mulch. The capillary system of the soil
is interrupted, so that the water and the moisture cannot go into the atmosphere.
way of hoeing is quite easy, because it’s not a big effort. I will show
you now. It’s just like working with a broom. You go just on the
surface, and it’s very easy. Don’t put any effort in this. Just cut the
wild herbs what is above the soil, from the root. And that’s it. And in
half an hour, or one hour, this will be also dry, and no moisture will
come up. Of course later we will put also grass cuttings into these
H(m): If you
have a little bit of experience and practice, you can make 100 square
meters in one hour. For a family, when you calculate the vegetables for
a family of four or five persons, 300 square meters of garden is
enough. Of course, it depends on which area you are in.So you can
easily produce, with an effort of between half an hour and 1 hour per
day, all the vegetables you need for your family.
Now I will show you how we produce the little plants. We have two types
of these sheets. One has 77 holes and the other one has 45 holes. The
smaller holes are for all the salads, brassicas and smaller plants like
fennel. And this is for zucchinis, squash, peppers and tomatoes.
H(m): So then I press it a little bit with my fingers.
H(m): So now I cover it again.
H(m): So that’s all. And now I make little holes with my finger also.
H(m): Now we put the seeds in one by one.
SupremeMasterTV(m): What seed is this?
H(m): This is a late salad, which is a little bit frost resistant and can be harvested until December if the winter is not too cold.
now we cover it a little bit, press it a little bit and that’s it.
Finally we put a little bit of water on top. And in between three or
four days we should see already something. Okay, and here you can see
endive plant we’ve planted two weeks ago and they are ready, maybe in
ten days to plant them outside. We plant them very late at the
beginning of August because they are frost resistant, a little bit at
least. And we can harvest them end of September until the middle of
is one saying in our area and they say, “One time hoeing is better than
two times watering”. And this is really true, I made this experience.
When you hoe, then the water stays in the ground so there is no need to
water the plants. But of course all this experience I made are here,
north of the Alps.
We have enough rain. I do not have any
experience how this could be in the south or in semi-desert areas. But
I think when I would use straw or grass cuttings, it also could be a
very good harvest. Zucchini, squash, peppers or tomatoes, or all these
other fruits, which like more warm areas, they can grow very well under these conditions.
The area behind me is what we do not use at the moment, but the garden
is getting bigger and bigger every year, because the demand is also
getting bigger and bigger.
We have also a lot of flowers in the garden in different colors, and
they, of course, attract different insects which are necessary to
fertilize some plants. Some plants only need wind for fertilizing, but
some also need insects. And it’s good to have some nice flowers inside
because the insects like the different colors, especially the blue
flowers they like the most. And there are a lot of wild bees and bumble
bees here. You can see now here, there are the plants, but there are also a lot of wild herbs in between.
can use these wild herbs for making some juice. We just have to know
which herbs we can use. So we have a small book that shows which herbs
in our area are edible.
And this is what I can recommend to
everybody, a nice little book about the wild herbs in the local area
might be very helpful. Also there are a lot of wild herbs in between
the plants that we like to eat. You can see that these plants still
develop very well.
SupremeMasterTV(m): What is this?
Mr. Helmut: Mangold. The amount of vegetables we can harvest here on this small bit of land is around 6½ tons.
SupremeMasterTV(m): How big can it grow if you don’t cut it?
Mr. Helmut: Now this is already the final state. They will not become bigger than maybe six kilos.
In one of the longest studies ever conducted on organic farming
practices, research by the US-based Rodale Institute has found that
organic soil management not only minimizes fossil fuel use, it can also
reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide by removing it from the air and
storing it as carbon in the soil. Scientists at the institute estimate
that if organic practices such as planting cover crops, composting and
crop rotation were implemented on the planet’s 3.5 billion tillable
acres, nearly 40 percent of current CO2 emissions could be absorbed.
These are potatoes. In our area the farmers have a massive problem with
the potato beetle or Colorado beetle. But I’ve found out that when you
put them on the pure soil, not bring them into the soil, then cover it
with straw, they grow wonderful, and they do not have hardly any of the
beetles. We also do not use any pesticides. If you look at our plants,
of course they have some holes. There are a lot of animals here; of
course they like the vegetables as much as we like them. But I always
got enough harvest from them. Especially they are not so much because
we have a more similar system like we have outside in the wild
… areas. It’s more like a meadow here, so our plants are quite healthy
and they are not attacked so strong by insects. To keep the plants
healthy, it’s also necessary to have some rotation system. There are
only a few plants you can plant over more years on the same place, but
it’s better to let them rotate. So this year we have the squash and the
zucchinis down there. Then we have all the Brassica. And then we have
fennel and beetroots and mangold on top. So next year we will have the
beetroots and the mangold down there, and all the others are coming
What is also important to keep the insects under control is that you
plant as early as possible. When the last frost is gone or there are
also plants, they can resist a little bit of late frost. So we start as
early as possible because then the plants, when the insects want to
attack them, the plants are already strong and they have their natural
oil to protect them.
Of course we try to start very early with
planting the plants outside. So we have to start early in the
greenhouse putting the seeds into the sheets so that the plants, when
the time is right, are already quite big. Of course these big plants
are not so strongly attacked by insects, because when we plant a little
bit of frost-resistant plants outside, maybe in the end of April, third
week of April, there are no insects. The insects are coming maybe at
the end of May. So this plant is already strong enough to resist the
As you can see, we also have slugs here, but they do not make a lot of
destruction. They do not eat a lot of our plants. I think as long as
they have enough things which are rotting, they do not attack the
normal plants. Of course,when they get too much from time to time, I
collect them and bring them down to the forest, and tell them that they
should stay there. And it looks like it works.
Most of the time I use this little ceramic knife, because I had the
impression that all the vegetables taste different if I cut them with a
metal knife or with a ceramic knife. Also in the kitchen we use a
Now finally I want to show you the cellar where we prepare the
vegetable boxes. I take the old boxes from the supermarket and we can
use them a few more times for delivering our vegetables. So it’s no
need to buy new plastic boxes. We prepare between 15 and 35 for every
delivery. We deliver.
a week and we have a little bit more that 100 customers. So I’ll show
you now the cellar. It’s cold in here; it’s nine meters into the solid
stone and on some parts of the ceiling there’s more than one meter of
soil on top.So we do not have any problems with the temperature. Here
we can prepare the boxes and keep them overnight and in the morning
they go into the car and they get delivered. And people really have
these vegetables as fresh as from their own garden. We also don’t need
any fridge in our house because the temperature is always very low in
here so we can keep all the things,
what we need, what we
normally would put into a fridge. For the winter we have two more
cellars for the storage; one is very old, like 300 years maybe. And the
other one we made new. These are the cabbages, the beet roots, the
parsley roots, the kohlrabi, the potatoes and so on.
This is our oldest cellar; I think this is the oldest part of the
house. The house is first mentioned in a contract in 1795 and when you
come into the cellar you think, you can see that it’s really that old.
Mr. Helmut: So
here we store many things, especially the potatoes. We put them in
bags, in like onion bags and then we cover it with this sand and it
keeps very well until June of next year. We still can take them out of
this sand in a very good quality, and they are solid, like harvested in
autumn. And the same is with the beetroots and the parsley roots.
It’s also healthy, in my opinion, because it is not that cold like in a
fridge, and so when you take something out of the cellar, you can eat
this immediately, without doing anything harmful to your stomach. So
this is my way of ecological and economical farming.
We have short transport distances to the customers. This is good for
the environment. We do not use any fertilizer; we do not use even
animal fertilizers outside on the field. And this also protects the
environment, because when you use animal fertilizer, then a lot of
methane gas and nitrite goes into the air. It’s really enough when you
only use grass cut and straw and all the waste from the kitchen, what
you have. As I’ve already told, the family needs around 300
square-meters and can save a lot of money with this when one person
works one hour a day.
And a very important thing is also that
the organic food produced in this way is very healthy. So you have a
lot of benefit for your body also. So if anybody has a little piece of
land, he can produce some vegetables on it, he can bring it to the
towns, because there are so many people who are waiting for really good
quality. It is really good for the environment because we do not have
this long transport.
This also saves money, saves a lot of
money for the government, if people eat more healthy. And finally it’s
also good for us. This way of producing vegetables we do since the year
1989 and it still works, and it’s getting better and better. And the
demand is getting more and more every year. So it would be necessary to