Organic versus Sustainable farming, is there a difference?

When we started Pretty Local we were asked by many of you what our views are on organic food and if we were only selling organic. In an ideal world, everything we eat would be organic, but in reality thats not the case, however we are finding that as everyone becomes more aware, the demand for organic is only going to grow.

Firstly what is organic?

Organic Farming is where a farm has to follow specific guidelines in relation to the way it farms. An organic farm cannot use artificial pesticides and fertilizers or GMO’s, it also means that animals are raised without antibiotics or hormones.

We work with a few farms that are certified organic I think the main point about the organic farms in the area is their ethos; they care about the environment, about providing nutrient dense foods, about animal welfare and about regenerating the land that they farm.

The Village Farm in East Portlemouth are using mob grazing methods for their flock of sheep rather than traditional methods so that they can allow the fields to regenerate, encouraging wildlife that was once there to come back to the area, wild flowers to flourish and the grass to grow back and creating good healthy soil.

Challon’s Combe in Aveton Gifford have a heard of dairy cows that they milk providing a delicious range of dairy products. They also have a small number of organic pigs. They have noticed such a difference on the farm since becoming organic, the wildlife is abundant and they have just been awarded the pasture for life certification which is their commitment to feeding their cows only grass, hay, silage and fodder crops. No concentrates, this means there are higher levels of protein and omega 3 in the milk, yoghurt and cream.

What is sustainable farming?

In the simplest terms sustainable farming is farming with nature using farming practices that work with the ecosystem, building and maintaining healthy soil as well as protecting the environment and animal welfare. One of the main reasons some farms are sustainable and not organic is down cost. To become organically certified it is not only time consuming as everything has to be documented, but it is also expensive and these costs are generally absorbed by the end user, the customer.

A sustainable farm may not necessarily be an organic farm, but many sustainable farms do follow organic practices. Spindlebrook Farm is a market garden that does exactly this: They don’t use any harmful chemicals on their veg, in fact all of their veg is hand sown, and hand grown. They follow a practice called No-Dig which essentially is layering compost onto the grown and planting into it. This provides nutrients to the soil (and the veg) and also helps to rebuild the soil, which is essential to our environment. The amount of wildlife at Spindlebrook farm is amazing, which can only mean that they are doing something right! Oh and the veg is delicious...

So whether you are buying organic or from local farms, the most important thing is to ask questions. Find out how your farmer farms, get to know where your food comes from. Encourage your children to notice wildlife and we should all care for the ground we walk on. Plant flowers for the bees and butterflies and don’t take your food for granted. A huge amount of love and care goes into producing good honest wholesome food, from sowing the seed to when it arrives on your plate.

The producers that we have on the website all have a story, they all have a producer page which tells you about the way they farm, we have been to all the farms and have seen the way they do things; and the good news is they all really care, both for their animals and the land that they farm.