Sunday, 20 November 2016

Is it really organic versus Organic instead of Chemicals?

A question put forth to me:" I am skeptical that it is organic.  Is it really organic? Or it is organic when compared to chemical?".  Due to this confusion and/or skepticism, that is why I do not really like the term organic but instead prefer natural.  At the farm, I focus more on natural farming.  What is the difference you may ask?  Here's my determining factor:

  1. If you use organic sources such as kelapa saw it, coco peat and rice husks, this may be considered organic but to me, I will avoid using it.  Why?  Simple really, all these items are laden with chemicals during the growing stage from chemical herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers.  So while it is organic, I do not consider it as organic.
  2. If something is grown using hormones, whilst it may be considered organic, it is not something that is my preference because the hormones could be synthetic hormones.  Plus. it is not natural and something that is done more from a commercial perspective.

It is getting more difficult to obtain clean sources because of the widespread use of chemical herbicides and herbicides, not to mention fertilisers.  In order to obtain SOM (Sijil Organik Malaysia), the land needs to be free of chemical pesticides and heavy metal apart from other conditions.  I don't remember seeing any mention of chemical herbicides.  Regardless, at the farm we do not use chemical pesticides or herbicides.  I believe that we can always work with nature and obtain natural sources.

In the production of our enzyme and fish amino acids, 90% of the ingredients used is farm based, when I can be confident of it being free from chemical contamination.   Our water source is clean, natural water taken from the source, running through 3000 m of polypipe.  We have 2 lines: 1 strictly for the fish and the other for other farm and farmhouse use.

When someone asks me  how can I claim that my FAA is organic.  Simple.
First: the fish source ingredient is from the farm.  The fishes' main diet is the small river fish, shrimps, algae, certain leaves and banana pseudo stem from the farm.  We do not use fish from the markets where you can almost be certain that it has been contaminated with chemicals to make it look fresh, smell fresh.
Second: The water used is uncontaminated, clean natural water.
Third: The only external ingredient is the probiotics bacteria and sea salt.  The remaining ingredients are all farm based.
The FAA concentrate is diluted at the rate of 1-2 capfuls per litre of water and watered at the base of the plant.

Why do I say my enzyme concentrate is organic?
First:  All the ingredients used are from the farm including the sugar source for the fermentation (we plant black sugar cane which is the source for the sugar).
Second: The water used is from our clean, natural uncontaminated source.
Third: All the pest control ingredients are also plant-based which is grown at the farm.
This enzyme concentrate is then diluted at the rate of 1-2 capfuls per litre water and either sprayed or watered at the base of the plant.

These two items are the main components in our fertilisation of the plants and trees.  In our fertilisers, we also use calcium, magnesium and potassium as well as other trace elements.  All are from our farm produce.  For example, our calcium source is also from the farm: our farm chicken eggs and certain fruits high in calcium.  Our chicken are not corn-fed to reduce introduction of contaminants.  90% of their food is from the farm.  Potassium from banana pseudo stem and bananas.

Soil conditions are important so soil improvers are also an essential part of the practice at the farm so that we can continue to grow good vegetables and fruits.   I mix the soil improvers into the soil in subsequent plantings in the same soil to ensure the soil remains healthy and fertile.  I also use it to cover non-liquid fertilisers applies to promote the decomposition of the fertiliser as well as in soil used to increase the soil level.

The base of the soil improver is the mulch where the source ingredients are also from the farm.  Again, I can be sure that it has not been sprayed with toxic chemicals.  Hence, I do not use any organic material from kelapa sawit, rice husks or coco peat as although it is considered organic, it is not for my farm.

I do use some vermicompost that I obtain from a source that I feel confident as well as chicken manure although minimal.  I am careful of what is introduced at the farm.  Why do I care so much?  I have a 3 year old son who I hope will grow up in good health without the new age, post GMO illnesses like psoriasis, eczema, respiratory problems, as well a host of allergies and other health issues.  At the same time, I enjoy planting and I do not want to have to worry about getting harmful chemicals on me :)  This is the least I can do to leave a good environmental legacy for my son.

The ability to do all this is because I have an integrated farm and do not practice monoculture so I have the diversity in source ingredients as well as availability.  Whilst it is difficult to determine chemical contamination from sources out of the farm, I try to limit the exposure.  Nature provides a lot of benefits hence our maxim of "Maximising Nature's Bounty" :)

Friday, 4 November 2016

Mahkota Dewa - one of our heritage plants

I have a keen interest in natural alternative therapies hence my deep interest of the various herbal plants and trees that is part of our heritage.  The Mahkota Dewa or God's Crown (scientific name:
Phaleria macrocarpa) is indigenous to Malaysia and Indonesia.  It can be grown in containers as well as in the ground.  I planted my from seed and it took 1 1/2 years before it started to flower and fruit.  I have two of these trees, both sprouted from seeds, but the one that is planted in a container in the greenhouse is doing much better.  I guess it is because it receives more care than the one planted outdoors.

It takes between 10-14 days for the seed to germinate.  The soil used is a mixture of 3:1 ratio of soil and organic matter.  It requires minimal fertilisation - I fertilise it quarterly with an organic fertiliser mixture that also contains calcium and magnesium along with potassium, nitrogen and phosphorous.  It is an evergreen tree and can grow up to 18m tall.  It can grow in full sun to partial sun areas.  The tree in the container is about 1m tall and is already flowering and fruiting.  I use an 18" high polybag with a 12" diameter.  The tree produces dainty white flower clusters which when pollinated, produces bright red fruits when ripen.

In traditional Malay therapy, it is used to treat diabetes, cancer of the lungs,
hepatitis, lower cholesterol levels, reduce high blood pressure and several others.  The fruit has therapeutic properties such as:

  • antioxidant, 
  • anti-tumor, 
  • antiviral, 
  • antibacterial, 
  • anti-hyperglycaemia and 
  • anti-diarrhoea.  
The main part that is used is the ripe red fruit. as well as the mature leaves.    The fruit can sliced and dried for storage for later use.  The leaves can also be dried for storage for later use.

Amongst the side effects of the fruit is headaches and can be poisonous if it is over-consumed.  It is also not recommended for pregnant ladies.  The normal method of consumption is by drinking the liquid resulting from boiling 3-5 fruits in 1 later of water and until it has reduced to 650ml or reduced by 2/3.  It is then consumed 1/3 at a time.  As with any herbal therapy, it is best to consult a herbalist first before consuming this.