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Organic farming: simple, healthy…the way to save the planet? Indeed, as our world faces an alarming global warming crisis, more and more people are awakening to the benefits of organic farming.

Ever concerned for the welfare of Earth and all her inhabitants, Supreme Master Ching Hai frequently calls for the world to embrace the practice of organic farming.

Videoconference with Supreme Master Ching Hai and Former Philippine President Fidel Ramos
Act Now! - For a More Peaceful and Safer World Taipei, Formosa (Taiwan)  February 21, 2009

Supreme Master Ching Hai: The benefit of organic farming is immense, including great advantage to both human health and the environment. Organic farming actually restores the topsoil and cleans the air and water supplies even. It is even good for animals, all beings on this planet, including even trees and land, in part because it does not use chemical fertilizer or pesticides

Now, scientific studies have found that organic farming not only reduces energy usage and produces less CO2, which helps lower greenhouse gases, but it actually allows the soil to absorb even 40% of presently in the air CO2 emission. Before we even invent any technology to reduce CO2, or before we even reduce all the cars and transportations, if we go organic we reduce 40% of the current CO2 in the air already, and the daily emission.

Considerate viewers, on today's Planet Earth: Our Loving Home, we are joined by one of our Association members who is an organic farmer in South Africa. Mr. John Lefferts has been kind enough to guide us through the basics of organic farming, so let's go take a look!

John Lefferts Organic farmer Our Association Member from South Africa

Lefferts (m): I'm from the Western Cape, Plettenberg Bay, a place called Wittedrif. We've been here for two years. And We had to tackle a farm that was used as a grazing land. And We found that the land was very depleted of goodness. And for us the most important element was to try and put back humus compost back into the soil mulch.

 Humus is decomposed organic matter which helps plants to grow. Mulch is a protective covering put in the soil to lessen water evaporation, to inhibit weed growth, to keep soil temperature steady, and to enhance the overall richness of the soil.

Lefferts: The soil that we have here is very clay-rich, so it requires air. And The only way we get air into it, because it becomes very compacted with rain, is by putting this wonderful humus with it. Obviously it starts a whole worm population because they can breathe inside the soil. All the microorganisms can survive. And basically that is the secret to really growing a good product is to have very healthy soil which has got good aeration, good drainage.

A ridge-style arrangement of the land has many advantages.

Lefferts (m): The second step is to make ridges on this land. Then we fill that with some of the mulch to be able to get better drainage, because the soil here, as mentioned, has been a little bit overworked. And it compacts because it's very clay-rich. So in order to give the plants a better drainage, what we do is we ridge it up and then we put mulch inside it. That gets mixed and the plants get planted on top. And obviously the healthier the soil, the better the product.

And If you look behind me you'll be able to appreciate that the ridging in itself creates the drainage that the plants so desperately need. In addition to that we then cover the top of the beds with a straw. And that obviously conserves water. It allows us only to spray twice or three times a week instead of having to spray every day.

Lefferts (m): This is a bale of the wonderful hay that I'm talking about. And What we do is we take this hay and we spread it not too thickly. We spread it on the top of our ridges, as you can see, on the eggplant, in order to conserve moisture.

Lefferts (m): So now as mentioned we put a nice layer of this straw inside, conserving the moisture. And if you look it's so beautiful and wet  and easy to dig with your fingertips. That's how wonderful the soil becomes. And Then you put this nice straw, or hay as we call it, around the base of the plants to conserve water.

Strawberry cultivation is a fine example of where the use of hay is immensely beneficial.

Lefferts (m): Our strawberries are finished, but this is an interesting fact about strawberries. They're called strawberries because when the plant throws out little flowers and they become berries, if you don't put straw the berries will land on the soil. And The insects and the worms and everything else will eat it from the bottom. But when you place a nice bed of straw, the strawberries land on it and they ripen beautifully without insects getting hold of them, hence the word "strawberries."

When we come back, Mr. Lefferts will tell us about the wonders of companion planting. You are watching Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television.

Welcome back to Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. Organic farming means no chemical fertilizers or pesticides are used during cultivation and thus the environment is spared from having to absorb these harmful unnatural substances. Also, the soil on organic farms is able to absorb CO2 from the air, thus helping mitigate global warming. Our Association member in South Africa, Mr. John Lefferts, is showing us the art of organic farming on today's show.  He will now discuss the important concept of companion planting.

Lefferts (m): The spray program that we have obviously does not include insecticides or pesticides or any herbicides. We use a system called companion planting. The companion planting allows us to combine plants, which will help with the insects.   

Because we give them something else that will attract them or  with these pungent smelling khaki bush and marigold plants, or these strong onion plants which keep the insects away from our produce.

Some of the examples of  companion planting would be: spring onions with strawberries, yarrow with beans, stinging nettle amongst your spinaches, khaki bush and marigold where all your spinach is, and tulbaghia, which is a wild garlic plant which you plant almost all the way around your vegetables patches. A lot of the insects don't like the pungent smell of the tulbaghia flower.

Things like khaki bush and marigolds are also planted generally all the way around your vegetable patches. We also use things like lemon verbena, which we put one on each corner, because that too has this wonderful pungent smell. Things like lavender are used as well extensively in the rows to be able to detract a lot of the insects. .

Organic farming done right means few to no insects eating the crops.

Lefferts (m): What I've noticed with having planted in this wonderfully mulched, very healthy soil, and with moon, there are no insects. If the plant is weak, it would naturally attract insects. So remember the secret is very good soil and to time your planting. Obviously good water, preparation of your soil, mulching of the ground, straw inside keeping the water retention, all of these elements make up a very healthy plant, and the healthier the plant is, the less insects are attracted to it.

Lefferts (m): The other thing that's quite vital is the type of mulch that you use. For example, potatoes, tomatoes and strawberries love acidic mulches. These mulches are made from pine needles. Whereas, a lot of the other plants which are alkaline, like the leafy vegetables, spinach, lettuce, they like the alkaline mulches. And it' amazing, the tomato tastes completely different when you're using an acid mulch with it.

Another key element of organic farming is selecting the correct time for planting.

Lefferts (m): It's so important to follow your planting regime according to the moon and the zodiac signs. The moon controls the tides and the gravity. So at a full moon the water has come up to its maximum.

So when the first sliver of the moon starts pulling, that's when you would plant all your leafy vegetable plants. And when the moon is pushing, you plant your root vegetables. The reason for that is the root vegetable follows the water or the leafy plants get water to actually to be pulled out of the ground.

Organic foods are truly rewarding to grow and to eat!

Lefferts (m): When you pick a spear directly off the plant, within 6 hours the sugars have changed and this is no longer sweet and crunchy, but quite bitter because the whole sugar composition of the plant changes. And That's why it's important that everybody grows their own organic veg. Picking an asparagus spear out of your own garden or a tomato or pulling a potato out of the ground, you will never compare the taste of what you've just pulled out of the ground to something that's traveled extensively. And That is why it's so important to try and grow your own produce. "Mmmm, mmm, mm" Wish you could taste this!

That sure does look fresh and full of flavor!

Lefferts (m): Finally, the difference that you will notice in picking a fresh asparagus or picking fresh produce out of your garden is obviously because they're so healthy. There is no substitute for healthy vegetables. We've noticed, for our kids and our family, that having the blessing of being able to eat our own organic vegetables, unbelievable how our children never need doctors and antibiotics and they don't get sick. Try it.

John Lefferts' farm is flourishing with happy crops. Anyone can start growing organic produce, no matter how small one's available space is for cultivation.

Lefferts (m): It's been really nice spending a little time with you talking about organic farming. But you don't have to have a farm to do organic plants, you can plant tomatoes in pots on your balcony, you can put potatoes in them. You can have these shelf pots that you can plant all your herbs. You can plant your lettuces. Try something. Just experiment. Obviously remember it must get a bit of sun because that's what causes the photosynthesis.

But you don't really need a farm. You need to actually have a passion to grow your own vegetables without insecticides, and herbicides and pesticides and chemical fertilizers. All you need is natural products, give it a bash, try it. It's healthy. Be Veg, Go Green. Thank you.

We thank John Lefferts for all the wonderful tips on growing organic fruits and vegetables. Not only is it fun and simple, but it is the best way of raising food for the health of our Earth!