Planet Earth: Our Loving Home
 
Canadian Farmers and Gardeners: Making the Smart Switch to Organic      
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Hallo, remarkable viewers, and welcome to Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. On this week’s program two Canadians, one a grain farmer and the other a seed producer, will discuss some of the many benefits of growing crops and vegetables in the healthy, sustainable organic way. First let’s get acquainted with Donald and Pam Armstrong of Central Canada’s Ontario province. They switched from dairy farming to growing organic buckwheat and soybeans and are now much happier.

When I was a dairy farmer, of course, I used chemicals and when I stopped milking, I decided that I had to do something different to survive. So I read something about organic farming and I decided that’s for me.

Pam Armstrong supported her husband’s decision to go organic.

And we’ve always been conscious of gardening with no insecticides or very careful with everything we did, because we have a large family. And that’s how it started.

As he had been growing grain to feed his dairy cows for many years, Mr. Armstrong already had most of the equipment he needed for organic farming. His main concern was the weeds affecting his harvests, but he soon discovered that crop rotation is a highly effective method to address this issue.

I did have a problem the first couple of years with grass. But now with the rotating to buckwheat, it’s been a major change in my crops. We plant two years of soybeans and then the third year is buckwheat, and then back into soybeans again for two. At the moment, that’s the way I’m rotating

Donald Armstrong now takes us to his field of organic buckwheat to show us how this crop makes weeds magically disappear!

This is a crop of buckwheat and I’ll tell you the whole story of this field. In 2008, this was a hay field. Last year I ploughed it and planted soybeans. But the grass came really badly in the field and the rains came and I only cultivated one time. So it was a terrible mess last fall. So this year I planted buckwheat. Now it’s in full bloom. And it was just a sight to see when it was just a sea of white across that whole field, totally white. And there’s not a weed in that field at the moment. It’s totally clean.

All you can see is bare soil when you look down; there are no weeds there at all. It’s totally amazing.

There’s no grass at all, no thistles, and it’s unbelievable.

In addition to crop rotation, Mr. Armstrong keeps weeds from growing by planting his rows of organic soybeans wide apart.

I plant with basically a conventional corn planter. The beans are planted in 30 inch rows and then I cultivate with a cultivator in between the rows, probably about three times per year, which helps big time.

Now that he no longer uses chemicals on his farm, Donald Armstrong is enjoying many benefits.

It’s great. I love it, plus, it saves a lot of money. (And) for my health of course. If I go somewhere now and smell a (chemical) spray, I can’t stand it. It’s amazing. I just detest the smell of (chemical) sprays. We’ve got more bees now and butterflies and birds flying around than ever. I’m telling you, it’s unbelievable.

Pam Armstrong was also delighted by the sudden return of wildlife to their farm once they began to farm organically.

Oh, it was almost overnight. It was wonderful! Especially this year with the buckwheat that we grew, we had many honeybees. We had Monarch Butterflies. (Really?) Yes, everywhere you looked. And we have lots of birds.

How long did it take before all those things came back?

Oh, as soon as we stopped using chemicals, they all came back. And you could almost see where there are chemicals being used on farmers’ fields next door, all the birds and everything are here. It’s really an inspiration. And if I could just show everybody the difference, everybody would be organic.

The Armstrongs are also reaping economic benefits from growing organic produce, which sell for much higher prices than conventional crops.

Last year, the price for (organic) soybeans was about triple of conventional beans. This year, probably (it will be) about double the price of conventional crops.

So it’s well worth growing an organic crop, then?

Oh, definitely, no doubt. That’s why I decided to go this way.

Leaving beautiful Ontario, we now travel to the west coast of Canada to meet Dan Jason.

Thank you for joining us today from Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada. Mr. Jason is both the founder and former director of Canada’s heritage seed program. Dan Jason operates Salt Spring Seeds, an organic seed company here on Salt Spring Island.

He has been featured in the documentary “Gardens Of Destiny,” where along with a number of experts he discusses the advantages of organics in reference to our current global food and health concerns. Dan is an internationally well-known organic gardener, with a fantastic selection of seeds, vegetables, grains and flowers.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you perhaps got started in this business?

I had it in my bones to try and get my parents to let me dig up our lawn and plant some vegetables. When I was about 13, they let me dig up a little patch under our back porch, which was maybe two feet by two feet. And, I planted carrots and potatoes, and they grew, and that was the beginning of my gardening career.

When Dan Jason grew up, his passion for gardening continued, especially after he moved to the province of British Columbia from Montreal, Quebec.

And my gardens got bigger and bigger and I decided to start a seed company. And then I started writing books about what I was growing. And I have now close to 10 books that I’ve put out on gardening. “Greening The Garden,” “Living Lightly On The Land,” and “The Whole Organic Food Book.”

And lately my shift has been much more to get people excited about saving their own seeds. So my latest book is called “Saving Seeds As If Our Lives Depended On It.” I’m excited to be a part of this amazing change in people’s consciousness about food growing.

Even a small home garden can supply an amazing quantity of fresh, delicious, organic fruits and vegetables. Mr. Jason shows how, by planting vegetables and herbs at different times, we can enjoy produce from our garden all summer long.

It enables you to do so much more. A good example is right here. You plant an early-maturing crop. And there're certain crops that add to the soil or can be turned under in the soil to add that organic matter. If you were growing beans or whatever, and that was in the rotation, and it matured early, then you have a richer soil. Then we can have yet another crop right now and do something else.

And over there, I have my garlic that's just come out. The next rotation is something that can be planted that will feed me greens through September or October, all the mustards and lettuces and stuff like that. So the rotation thing is partly sequential, which enables you to really maximize your garden all year round.

Because if you're talking about feeding yourself, you want to stagger all the crops that you can grow so that anytime you feel like eating from the garden, you'll have something all the time, which is great.

Approximately one of every three families in North America does some type of home gardening, and according to Dan Jason, the numbers are increasing rapidly.

It’s actually something that's happening to an amazing degree right now. I see this because I'm a seed company. And I get all these calls and e-mails from people who are, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, wanting to start to grow their own food. And they're digging up their lawn, and planting beans and carrots, and people are starting to organize together so that you have land that's not being used in the city and in the towns, church land, Rotary (Club) land, whatever and people are starting to work together.

And there's starting to be a new gardening movement. It's not just about gardening, but it really is more about growing food, and not only food for oneself but for one's community. And it's just the beginnings of a whole new movement where people are thinking of taking care of themselves locally much better.

Dan Jason believes that by sharing our gardening resources, we can create a fascinating new way of living.

We’re so individualistic in North America, but now people are realizing that if they have a shady lawn where they live, they can grow the crops that like it cool, like peas and like lettuces and other greens. Somebody on the other side of the street might be totally in the sunshine and they can grow the peppers and the tomatoes. And so that’s happening. So it’s just fantastic.

Mr. Jason is always willing to help anyone interested in organic gardening and preserving seeds, and his website is filled with useful information.

And it’s not only a list all the seeds we offer, but all the growing instructions. And we have a lot of neat things about crops that aren’t so well known, that are starting to catch on now. And we have little videos about how to save your own seed, all the different ways of doing it.

Organics is the only way to go, not using herbicides and pesticides and poisons in general. If you don’t poison your food and your environment and grow organically, then we’re going to have a planet that survives.

Many thanks Donald and Pam Armstrong as well as Dan Jason for your diligent efforts to grow fruits and vegetables in the healthy, sustainable, organic way. You’re an inspiration to your fellow Canadians and model cultivators and we wish you great success in your future, noble endeavors.

For more information on Dan Jason, please visit www.SaltSpringSeeds.com
Books by Mr. Jason as well as the DVD “Gardens of Destiny” are available at the same website

Thank you for joining us today on our program. May our planet’s atmosphere be forever pure and Heaven blessed.

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