Nutri-Culture and Farming’s Future

by Gary Kline

BLOSSOM Consulting Services

 

 

This article is written as an Addendum to my lecture on Nutri-Culture: The Ultimate Agronomic System. It is aimed at interesting farmers in the advantages in adopting Nutri-Culture practices for producing nutritionally superior crops and livestock to meet a growing interest in consuming nutrient-dense foods for greater health and longevity. Those farmers would be wise to eat the products of their own creation as well.

 

With regard to the future course for agriculture, the great majority of commentators present a false dilemma between chemical farming and conventional organiculture, as if that’s our only choice. The dilemma is usually resolved by presuming that organics is superior, less damaging and the ultimate answer for achieving sustainability. To them nothing else is feasible, nor is any new agronomic system imaginable. This is thinking inside the box. They are sadly mistaken, because there is a third option - - - a much better option than conventional organiculture or chemical agriculture that can readily replace both of them and greatly out-perform them in the many respects described in my Nutri-Culture Agronomy lecture.

 

Whether or not it goes by the name Nutri-Culture, this system, involving the principle of soil nutrient balance and yielding assuredly nutrient-dense food is ready to go and yelling, “Put me in coach!” It is the totally sensible and smarter option - - - call it Option 3 - - - and the real sustainability solution that desperately needs to be implemented worldwide, ASAP. Incidentally, there is an excellent assessment and projection of where agriculture needs to go in the soil chapter of the 2009 book, Our Choice by Al Gore. Additionally, there is a short but excellent discussion of biochar’s promise for upgrading agriculture and sequestering carbon.

 

Recently, the term and concept of sustainability is appearing nearly everywhere. This is good, but there needs to be a recognition that sustainability can not be gauged by the number of bad things you don’t do. Rather, it is the result of positive and proactive measures we take to achieve and maintain good soil health and thus produce nutritious crops indefinitely while doing minimal environmental harm. We have to get beyond the organic cult mystique to the scientifically valid and proven agronomic system I have outlined as a reporter and messenger; more so than as the originator.

 

What does this do to the Certified Organic label? When I talk about Nutri-Culture replacing or superseding organiculture, I see it as being an addition to organics since it incorporates many of the same practices and methods, but goes well beyond them. It’s the next step, but I don’t think we need to go through organiculture to get there. We can leap right over it with a more informed and sophisticated system having much greater benefits for farmers and consumers.

 

Assuming the Nutri-Culture system receives the recognition and acceptance I believe it is due, I foresee a Nutri-Culture Certificate program, but one much simpler than the hassle that organic certification has become. It would have very simple and demonstrable criteria to be met and could be very similar to, or an adjunct of Certified Naturally Grown, a program which is already in place. I am working on a Nutri-Culture Grown Certificate program.

 

In addition to the unwarranted assumption that organiculture is automatically a sustainable agronomic system, there is an assumption and frequent assertion that because something is grown organically it is automatically highly nutritious. This could be true in some cases where a soil is naturally mineral-rich, but I suspect that most often it is not. In any case, there ought to be a requirement to prove nutritional superiority before making the claim. This would entail setting standards and a way to measure or gauge the level of nutrition that has actually been achieved for a given crop.

 

Fortunately, there is an existing, simple technique for doing just that, on the spot. It can be used by both growers and consumers to verify the overall nutritional content of a given item of produce, or even milk. That technique involves the refractometer and BRIX ratings. There are charts that give the BRIX numbers, ranging from poor to excellent for most vegetables and fruits. You can find lists in Foundations of Natural Farming (2008) by Harold Willis. The grower who is able to achieve a high level of nutritional quality and state the corresponding BRIX number observed at harvest can make a legitimate claim to that effect and thereby be at a fair competitive advantage and command higher prices. The name Nutri-Culture Grown effectively conveys this superior quality message.

 

Consumers can bring their own BRIX meter to market with them and check out the nutrient density (if allowed to snip off a sample to test or do so at home). The really good farmers would welcome this and the others would need to get busy upgrading their soils’ fertility and condition. Everyone wins because there are multiple benefits all around, as I have enumerated in the handout on “What Nutri-Culture Can Do”. It comes down to forging a better world and brighter future.

 

There is another faulty claim to be scrutinized and that is the “freshness” fallacy which states that a crop grown nearby and picked very recently will be tastier and more nutritious than one brought in from out-of-state or held for a time in refrigeration. There is a grain of truth in this, all other things being equal, but it is not always true or automatically so. Rather, it has more to do with how well the produce was grown and the nutrient status of the soil it came from, as I pointed out in my discussion of storage or keeping quality in relation to mineral, vitamin and protein quality built into the crop. Local farmers and gardeners can, and often do, grow inferior produce that is prone to rapid rotting. Those tasteless and nutritionless, pretty, jumbo strawberries we’ve all sampled were that way the moment they were picked, regardless of where they came from. If your crops are consistently inferior in taste and rot quickly, the consumer will eventually get wise and you will fall behind the competition who grew it right.

 

Penny-pinching does not succeed. To get dollars out, you have to put dimes in. The grower who thinks he or she can make a bundle off the “organic” frenzy by charging a premium and doing everything feasible to avoid input costs will go to the bottom of the pile. The cost of what you put into achieving soil nutrient balance will be more than made up at harvest in the quality and quantity of what you have to sell. Making it known that you incorporate biochar in your farm’s soils will further set you apart as a conscientious earth steward. Check out the handout I wrote on a Five-Year Biochar Enhancement Plan for applying biochar and spreading out the cost.

 

Another thing growers and the public should be aware of is unwarranted claims of growing sustainably, simply to get on the latest bandwagon. We would be right to be suspect of any such claims in the absence of specific information on growing practices used to get the soil healthy and keep it in a high state of fertility as opposed to neglecting that responsibility of good stewardship. Just leaving things to nature isn’t doing your part. The nutritional quality of what you produce is the barometer of how your farm is doing. Farmers who don’t make the effort and investment to keep their soils adequately mineralized and reasonably balanced risk eventual loss of the farm.

 

I can remember back in the ‘70s when the Olympia Farmer’s Market was starting out and “organic” produce began appearing in supermarkets here. In general it looked awful and often on the verge of rotting. Back then it was explained that it was supposed to look that way because it was “organic” and they weren’t allowed to spray with nasty pesticides and this was the trade-off if you wanted food safe to eat. Clearly something was missing. I thought then, and know now, that was a sad excuse. Well-grown organic produce grown in properly mineralized soil should look as good as any chemically-grown and sprayed produce on display. When grown with Nutri-Culture practices it will be superior in all respects. As I said in my main Nutri-Culture presentation, “When you look at all the pluses for everyone and for the planet, Nutri-Culture is the hands down winner for where agriculture needs to go.”

 

That there is still a large contingent of myopic, Sacred C.O.W. (Conventional Organic Wisdom) farmers out there can be seen in the December 2015 issue of Acres USA magazine on the last page where a featured third-year farming couple is asked “Have you always been an eco-farmer, or did you make a change?” The answer was, “Yes. We have chosen to grow our products completely chemical-free, and that includes any organic chemicals that we could use.” This is what makes you an eco-farmer, what you don’t do?

 

Here’s another revealing part of that Acres inquiry, “What is your biggest current challenge?” The answer, “Since we are completely chemical-free we sometimes deal with insect problems and of course weeds.” I’ll bet they do, a lot. Clearly, these people have no knowledge of the fundamental eco-ag principle of Nutritional Pest Control arising from soil nutrient balance. I’d say they are thinking inside the box. I fear for their future.

 

You may not be prepared financially, or for other reasons, to implement all components of the Nutri-Culture Ultimate Agronomic System, but at a minimum you should get a complete, professional soil test and mineralize your soils accordingly. Our test is not the cheapest, but it is very thorough and completely understandable. Some others can be a waste of time and money and leave you scratching your head.

 

In view of the growing interest and demand for nutrient-dense foods, farmers would be wise to get in front of the trend. The wise farmer sells nutritional health. Remember, “Health comes only from nutrient-balanced soil.” After you apply the soil test-prescribed fertilizers and grow your crops or your livestock, I suggest advertising that your organic produce or naturally-raised livestock is grown on minerally-enriched soil. If you need help in that regard or in progressing to Nutri-Culture Grown status, that’s what BLOSSOM Consulting Services is about.

 

 

© 2016, Gary L. Kline

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