Organic Farming: Why This Has to Be the Way Forward

Every super bazaar worth its salt has a section devoted to ‘organic products’ in these enlightened times. While this may be some new-fangled term to the uninformed or the uninitiated, the more evolved consumer understands the wealth of thought and action that has gone into the organic product that sits there.

What is organic farming?
Before the advent of synthetic fertilisers and chemical pesticides, all farming was organic. Booming populations required increased food production, and this drove Man to improve on Mother Nature. This resulted in the widespread use of chemicals in farming- not just the production of food grains but livestock rearing as well.

Organic farming shuns the use of these chemicals. It also rejects genetically modified organisms and seeds, and the use of antibiotics and hormones.

However, this is not the sum total of what the practice entails. It is a holistic system which treats the soil and farming as a living entity; the principal goal is sustainable and harmonious practices which make the human race one with their environment.

The advantages of organic farming are innumerable:

Soil protection
There is a whole world of living organisms and ‘societies’ in the soil and underground. Organic farming aims to protect all this to prevent degradation of soil. For example, though nitrogen makes up 78.09% of air, it is not available to plants unless it is fixed in the soil. Limited soil nitrogen is a big factor curbing food production the world over. Organic farming uses leguminous plants, like peanut, and their symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria to achieve this.

The interdependence of crops to soil organisms is delicate and the harsh use of chemicals destroys this delicate, ecological balance and destroys the soil. Organic methods of farming ensure the wellbeing of the whole.

Recycle ‘wastes’
Material that was considered waste like crop residue and farmyard manure, and fish by- products is used to nourish the soil and the crops. This has the two-pronged benefit of being an environmentally safe waste disposal system as well as limiting the production of greenhouse gases unlike synthetic fertilisers and their detrimental contribution to global warming.

Maintaining biological diversity
Food production is big business today. Unfortunately, when multi -billion dollar corporations peddle their genetically modified ware, they promote homogeneity and monocultures on a gigantic scale. Experts feel that this results in increased vulnerability of crops to climate change, pests and disease. The policy for fitness in nature has always been to adapt and survive.

The other frightening downside to genetic meddling is that the devoted use of a single kind of pesticide that these modified crops encourage might also encourage the development of sinister superbugs and superweeds. This is already a matter of concern.

Livestock health is indeed wealth
An organic livestock farmer must integrate systems that accommodate the natural behaviour and health of the animal. This includes access to the outdoors including fresh air, sunlight, and pasture for ruminants like cows and buffaloes, shade, and shelter.

Livestock feed must be organic too. The manure produced must be managed and recycled to make the most of the nutrients.

Organic livestock farming also turns its back on the use of hormones and antibiotics and other chemicals. For example, hormones used on milch cattle to increase milk production not only harm the animal but have undesirable effects on human health as well. They are suspected to cause early onset of menstruation as well as the development of secondary sexual characteristics in girls. There is also some evidence to suggest consuming such milk causes a variety of cancers like prostate, breast and colorectal.

Indiscriminate use of antibiotics leads to the growth of drug- resistant bacteria. This is an ongoing battle even in the present.

Ensures the safety of human health
Chemicals used in farming cause great harm to human health. Allergies are at the lower end of this spectrum with cancers at the other.

The ill-effects of chemical usage are not limited to the single crop or a particular crop period. They are much more long-lasting, poisoning the soil for many years to come.

Groundwater is also affected. Water that runs off these crops also carries these poisons to other water bodies. The use of chemicals is not self-limiting in any way, and it would be foolish to think that it is containable.

Preparation of organic products
This is part and parcel of the organic way of life. Great emphasis is laid on careful processing and handling methods to ensure that the end-product retains its organic integrity.

No irradiation or chemical pest control methods are used to increase shelf life.

In 2012, the American Academy of Paediatrics had warned about the ill effects and life-altering health problems that the continued use of chemical farming methods has, on children in particular. It advised concerted action to protect children from pesticides.

It might be though that thoroughly washing vegetables or grain is enough to rid them of chemicals, but this is not the case. Sprayed pesticides and chemical fertilisers ‘sit’ deep in the product, under skins, in the flesh, and ingrained in cereals. Not all of them are soluble in water nor are they so superficial as to be washed off.

Homo sapiens are a very self-centred species. Humans feel that the whole of the Earth is at their disposal to do with as they please. This could not be further from the truth. It is time to realise that we are only part of creation and not the whole of it; if we are to inherit the earth, we must leave something to be inherited!

There has been increased awareness that the organic way is the path forward. The organic movement may have been a straggler in the early 1960s, but it is fast on its way to becoming a flood.

Join the movement and protect the environment, yourself and your loved ones before it’s too late. Buy organic.

Inside the Abbey Where Monks Make Trappist Beer

Trappist beer is made by or under the supervision of monks within the walls of a Benedictine abbey. Their beer is outstanding and their history of brewing beer goes back to the Middle Ages.

It is believed that beer was being brewed in monasteries as early as the 6th century. In its earliest history, beer was preferred over the available drinking water which was often unsanitary and carried a whole lot of diseases. Beer was considered to have important nutrients that nourished the monks during their fasting periods. It was also shared with the community, in a perspective of self-sufficiency.

Purpose of Trappist Beer

The term Trappist comes from the abbey of La Trappe in Normandy, where the movement was formed. Trappists more formally known as the Cistercians of the Strict Observance are a religious order of the Roman Catholic Church.

The important criteria of being a Trappist monk is that, to fund the monastery and its charitable endeavors, the monks must do manual labor rather than any other kind. As a result, most monasteries are located out in the countryside, surrounded by fields with livestock and crops. Besides beer, Trappist abbeys are known for producing cheese, bread, clothing and other such products.

The International Trappist Association

In order to prevent non-Trappist commercial companies from using the Trappist name, eight Trappist abbeys got together and formed the ‘International Trappist Association’ (ITA) in 1997. To become a member of the lTA, prospective abbeys must go through a rigorous application and evaluation period.

The following is the strict criteria, ITA-recognized breweries must follow:

  • The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, either by monks themselves or under their supervision.
  • The brewery must be of secondary importance within the monastery and its business practices be conducted in accordance with monastic life.
  • The brewery is not intended to be a profit- making venture. The income covers the living expenses of the monks and the maintenance of the monastery. Whatever remains is donated to charity and to help persons in need.
  • The quality of the beers are subject to quality monitoring.

There are around 170 Trappist monasteries in the world, but just 11 produce beer; six in Belgium, two in the Netherlands, one in Austria, one in America, and the newest one in Italy.

Trappist vs. Abbey

Currently, very few working monasteries brew beer within the order, but many have licensed the production of beers bearing their abbey name to large commercial brewers. These are called ‘Abbey ales’.

Breweries, that are not lTA-members cannot claim their beers as Trappist products, so it is very common for ‘Abbey’ to be used instead. This still denotes the beers are similar in style and presentation to monastic beers, without making false claims that the brewing process is overseen by actual Trappist monks.

You can identify ITA-recognized Trappist breweries by looking for the ‘Authentic Trappist Product’ logo on the packaging.

Types of Trappist Beer

Trappist beers are all top fermented ales, including La Trappe Bockbier. Trappist breweries use various systems of nomenclature for the different beers produced which relate to their relative strength.

The best known is the system where different beers are called Enkel/Single, Dubbel/Double and TrĂ­pel/Triple. These terms roughly describe both the amount of malt and the original gravity (alcohol percentage). In order to distinguish the different styles, the Trappist breweries have used different packaging methods such as Chimay’s label coloring system, Rochetort’s numbers printed on the label, and Westvleteren’s colored bottle caps.

Here is a list of the most well-known Trappist breweries:

  • Achel
  • Chimay
  • La Trappe
  • Orval
  • Rochefort
  • St. Joseph’s Abbey ( Massachusetts USA)
  • Westmalle
  • Westvleteren