Friday July 10, 2015
Humanity’s first farmers took their instruction from nature. They watched how the Earth provided water, nutrients, and pest protection to plants through intricate systems, and they learned to breed plants naturally to get the varieties they wanted.
Humans started out making small interventions to nature’s plants and ecosystems, which made a big difference to their lives.
Today, industrial agriculture makes massive interventions. Acres upon acres of land are cleared, tilled, fertilized, spray with pesticides, flooded, and planted season after season.
The environmental costs have continued to rise, while the returns have been diminishing for over a century. We’ve done a lot of damage to the natural systems on Earth that make life possible.
Organic agriculture is about returning to the philosophy of small intervention—of working with nature instead of against it. It’s about taking responsibility for the damage we’ve done to the Earth, and recognizing that nature’s way is often the best way.
Here are a few of the ways we at Hawaiian Organic Noni mimic what nature does naturally.
In nature, where there is water, plants soon follow. The location for the plants is determined by the availability of water. But we humans like to have our plants where we want them, so it becomes a question of bringing the water to the plants.
On our organic farm, we use solar voltaic power to bring water up out of the ground to irrigate our noni trees. We then collect mulch and drip irrigate to conserve this water, making sure that there’s no waste, and allow the excess to seep back down into the water table.
Really, we’re just imitating the water cycle, which is nature’s way of moving water around on Earth. In nature, the sun evaporates water from lakes and oceans so it can be redistributed in the form of rain. We use the sun to pull water from the ground and distribute it—not so different!
Many people think that humans invented pesticides, when in reality, we’ve just taken a natural process too far. Nature contains all sorts of natural “pesticides” – plants that taste bitter, insects that feed on pests, colors that signify poison.
With a little work, planning, and patience, organic farmers tap into the natural ability of an ecosystem to regulate pests. We find ways to attract predatory insects, incorporate plants that discourage pests into our crops, and much more.
The pesticides used by conventional agriculture work quickly in the short term, but the damage from them extends farther than we intend or realize. Organic farmers return to nature’s method of slow processes to control pests. It takes longer to be effective, but it lasts for generations and is a net gain for land, rather than a loss. We have found that our organic growing methods have produced healthy Noni trees with no pests.
Natural ecosystems are great at fertilizing themselves. Usually soil is fertilized through many complex processes of growth and decomposition, as nutrients are cycled from the soil to plants and animals and back again.
Organic farmers imitate this process of natural fertilization in several ways.
On our farm, we have tons of wild worms in the soil, but we also farm worms. We simply put the worms in a closed environment and let them do what they do in nature, just on a larger scale. They break down food scraps and other compostables by digesting them. We then collect the “castings” (aka worm poop) which is rich in nutrients. Then we spread this around the farm. It’s an amazingly effective fertilizer!
We also do traditional composting on the farm. We make a big pile of organic matter—food scraps, paper, cardboard, wood shavings, leaves, etc.—and let the bacteria go to work. We have learned to turn our piles every other day adding air and water to feed the beneficial bacterium. It’s an acceleration of a process that happens in nature over a long period of time. When the compost is broken down, it becomes a substance called humus, which is essential for healthy, living soil.
We also make compost tea on the farm. This tea is not for drinking. It’s for spraying on the leaves of plants. Compost tea is a liquid fertilizer that helps us stretch our supplies of compost farther. Again, we aerate our compost tea injecting oxygen into the tea when making to feed the beneficial bacterium. The result is a more potent compost tea to feed the Noni leaves.
Another way that we preserve soil fertility is by mulching. Mulching imitates the natural cycle of leaves, wood, and other plant matter building up on the ground to cover the soil. This helps maintain soil temperature, provides habitat for insects and other animals, and keeps moisture from evaporating. Our Noni orchards are worm “hotels” due to the thick mulching around every tree.
No Till System
One final way we keep our soil fertile is by using a no till system. Tilling means turning the soil over, so it’s easier for farmers to dig into, start new plants, and weed. The problem is, tilling disturbs the living things in the soil, releases carbon, oxygen, and water into the air, and gives weed seeds the chance to germinate. We don’t till the soil on our farm, to preserve the fertility of the land.
Diversity is a major principle of organic farming, and it’s inspired by nature. In the natural world, you almost never see a monoculture—that is, an ecosystem made up of only one kind of plant or animal.
There’s a practical reason for this. An ecosystem made of only one organism is very unstable, prone to disease and pests, and destructive to the land.
We grow a lot of noni on our farm, but we’re careful to ensure there’s a wide variety of plants and animals on our land. That includes tons of tropical fruit trees, coconuts, flowers, honeybees, chickens, worms, insects, and many more.
Using Nature for Good Health
Nature has given us tons of plants to promote good health, including noni fruit. Many people don’t take advantage of nature’s bounty, but we’re on a mission to educate the world about the amazing health promoting benefits nature offers us through noni. Noni fruit has been tested by centuries of use by ancient Polynesians and native Hawaiians as a raw food to maintain good health, and we’re proud to continue the tradition.
We’re returning to nature’s way by healing ourselves naturally, caring for the land, and taking advantage of the cycles that nature has perfected over thousands of years.