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"About The Soil" by Lee Duncan

Posted on December 1, 2010 at 5:55 PM

Have you ever wondered what is required to become a Certified Organic Grower?  And, why should you eat organic?  It is not just to avoid unhealthy chemicals!

The following article was written by my mother, Lee Duncan.  She and her husband, David Duncan, spent many years as certified organic growers of apples, as well as producing many other nuts, herbs, range free chickens, and vegetables.  She has a degree in Agricultural Public Relations from Fresno State University.


“You Are What You Eat” was the name of a book by

Nutritionist, Adele Davis in the 1950s. She was

right! And the food you eat is as nutritious as the

soil it is grown in.


The Organic Farming movement is an attempt to

encourage farmers to use natural methods to grow our

food and to use less harmful chemicals in the soil

that grows our food.


When we grew organic apples for sale the organic

farmers’ certification group sent out inspectors each

year to verify that we didn’t spray with chemicals.

They did a physical inspection of our farm land,

and relied on our financial records to check what we

put into the soil.


For a food to be labeled “organic” it must be

certified by an organic group that it actually was

grown in an organic manner and not with harmful

chemicals. Organic matter added to the soil acts as

a buffer between soil microorganisms and the toxic

chemicals that some farmers put into their soil.

Plants will continue to grow in soil that is depleted

but the plant will lack nutrients. It is similar to

when a young child does not eat a nutritious diet but

only eats “junk food”. He will continue to grow. He

will also experience lots of health problems as he

gets older.


Organic matter is central to the organic method. The

main point of composting, mulching and applying

animal and green manure is to build and maintain the

organic matter in soil. The microbiological activity

is vital to the soil’s health. Manure, compost, and

other organic matter are food for the soil

microorganisms which increases the numbers of

microorganisms and prevents disease. When beneficial

microflora are in the soil this prevents disease

organisms from growing.


When commercial agriculture applies chemicals to

control plant diseases the chemicals also kill the

good microorganisms. When workers spray chemicals on

fields they wear protective clothing. These

chemicals are also harmful to the soil. Organic

methods encourage good soil microorganisms and

prevent the bad ones from growing.


Today most of our food is raised on large farms.

Most farmers take care of their land. After all, it

is their largest asset. But in an effort to produce

as much as possible for the least amount of money,

some farmers take shortcuts by using harmful chemicals.

Soil is the loose top layer of the earth’s surface

which supplies plants with nutrients and minerals and

which serves as a medium for the roots to develop.

It is composed of several different components.

Organic matter, minerals, and other solid materials

form a base for the soil. Water and air fill the

gaps between the soil solids. Minerals in the soil

vary. The size of the mineral particles is very

important. This affects the ability of the soil to

absorb water, etc.


Sand, silt and clay make up the texture of the soil.

Texture of soil can be determined by taking a pinch

of soil between your fingers and rubbing your fingers

together. Sandy soil feels gritty. Silt is powdery.

Clay is hard when dry, slippery when wet and rubbery

when moist. Clay and humus are the storehouse of

soil nutrients.


Organic matter contributes to the formation of good

soil structure and good structure is essential for

healthy crops.


Traditionally many farmers worked a piece of ground

until it was worn out and unproductive then moved

onto other fertile land. Today that is not possible.

Most farmers are practicing methods to improve their

soil. This includes building up the amount of

organic matter in the soil.


Gardeners and farmers can have their soil tested

annually and fertilize in accordance or they can heap

on the mulch and compost without testing and not find

deficiencies. Most of the time it is easier to add

mulch and compost than to purchase and apply chemicals.


Plants need at least sixteen chemical elements from

the soil. Deficient soils lack one or more of these

elements. Poor plant growth is a sign of deficient soil.

It is important for consumers to read the labels and

to buy locally when possible. Try to find out where

the fresh produce and fish comes from. In the recent

past there have been problems with produce from

China, Mexico, and some South American countries.

They use lots of chemicals. Most fish are grown in

disease infested fish ponds and can be harmful. The

fish from the wild is probably still safe.


In grocery stores, shop in the outer isles and skip

the precooked and premixed food in the center of the

stores. Read labels. If you can’t understand what

is in the food, don’t buy it. It is probably not

good for you.


There are some government regulations on food grown

in the U. S. There is not much regulations on food

coming from foreign countries.


It is always safer to buy locally. It will also be

fresher. In California we are able to buy directly

from farms from roadside stands and in most cities

there is a Farmer’s Market.


• Buy locally.

• Buy organic when possible.

• Grow your own food if you can.

• Shop the outside isles in grocery stores.

• Read labels.

• Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and not too

much meats or sweets.

• Don’t drink soft drinks. Instead drink lots of water.

• Do some exercise every day.

• Have a healthy mental attitude.

Categories: Foods To Eat/Nutrition Articles