The organic food movement developed in response to numerous trends in the agricultural industry, particularly the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which pose health hazards. The techniques of organic agriculture include the use of micro-organisms in the soil as well as compost and manure, feeding the soil as opposed to feeding the plants, and employing a system of integrated pest management. The practices of the organic food movement are geared toward eliminating the use of chemicals in food production for health purposes.
Generally speaking, Natural Agriculture has a broader, more philosophical approach to agriculture and aims not only to produce health benefits but also aid in fostering the well-being of entire ecosystems and of the whole individual, mental, physical and spiritual. It grew out of a vision of the interrelationship of all life. Farmers using the Natural Agriculture method base each decision on consideration for the entire web of life. While Natural Agriculture may use natural compost such as leaves and grasses, it does not use manure because it does not believe this benefits the natural soil. When compost is used, local materials are encouraged, and they are used not as a nutrient but to keep the soil moist, warm and soft. The principle belief is that everything needed by the plant for growth is already present in the soil, fully formed or in potential. Each year through the practice of Natural Agriculture, the condition of the soil improves without extra feeding. Although this process may seem slow, by working more consciously with Nature’s cycles the end result is soil that is more intrinsically itself, fully able to grow vigorous, high yielding crops when they are suited to its particular, local characteristics.
Natural Agriculture does not recognize any insect as a “pest” that needs to be exterminated by chemical means. There may be reasons for the presence of these creatures which we may not immediately understand, for example a balancing of nature’s systems. In the case of a sudden influx, the farmer will examine the conditions on his farm as a whole to identify any imbalance. Within this, the potential for the plants to develop their own methods of resistance is recognised and allowed for. The Natural Agriculture method promotes a more comprehensive understanding of the role of insects and how to maintain their balance so they do not become excessive and damage plant life.
Intrinsic to this approach is seed-saving, where seeds from each harvest are planted to grow the next season’s crops. As the soil strengthens in its intrinsic Nature, so do the plants, each increasing its life force, its health and vitality. This combination enhances plants’ ability over time to withstand harmful insects, diseases and adverse weather conditions.
Natural Agriculture and Organic methods have many similarities. For example, a key tenet of both is the vital energy of freshly grown food, as produce that has been shipped from long distances loses important nutritional value. Furthermore, there are important health benefits to be derived from eating what can be seasonally grown in one’s own locality. For example, eating tropical fruit in the middle of winter may not be what the body needs to conserve its heat. Both the organic movement and Natural Agricuture promote the consumption of food grown locally and working together is often mutually beneficial.