If you grow a garden or visit the farmers market, you’re hopefully enjoying the abundant summer crops. Unfortunately, with warm temperatures come pests and weeds that can devastate a harvest.
Conventional agriculture approaches this problem with chemicals and genetic modification, using man-made inputs to kill weeds and pests and boost yields while polluting the environment and our bodies.
Glyphosate, the chemical used in Roundup is extremely poisonous. Pesticides and herbicides kill wildlife and pollinators, and leach into and pollute water sources. It causes severe health problems, poisoning farm workers (mostly immigrants and low-income folks) and consumers. Continued application leaves land increasingly infertile and reliant on chemical inputs.
In addition, these chemicals are produced using fossil fuels, and profit-seeking corporations force farmers into debt while their farms resilience decreases.
What’s the solution? Agro-ecology is the practice of growing food that works alongside ecosystems instead of trying to dominate them.
Natural pest-management includes pest-repellent plants (like marigolds or citronella grass) and plants that attract pests’ predators (like Sweet Alyssum, which attracts ladybugs to eat aphids). You can also apply non-toxic products like neem oil, peppermint tea, and diluted castile soap!
To replace chemical fertilizer, plant cover crops that fix nitrogen (like legumes or clover), apply homemade organic compost, and practice crop-rotation.
To fight weeds: mulching and good old manual weeding!
If you don’t grow a garden, your consumer choices make a difference! Buy organic when possible, and support growers at farmer’s markets and CSA boxes who support agro-ecology (if you can’t tell, look them up or ask!). Changing the way we grow food protects farm workers, respects ecosystems and pollinators, and ensures community health for generations to come.
A great film on this topic is @thebiggestlittlefarm.