An enthusiastic group of Southwest people participated in Bee Winfield’s workshops last weekend at Nannup’s Flower and Garden festival. The importance of growing our own fruit and veges organically was stressed, with slides of research showing the effects of pesticides on children’s cognitive development & the links between commonly used organo-phosphates in agriculture to ADHD and learning difficulties. They learnt how Round Up was found in the urine of every subject tested ( 1000 + people in Germany)and saw how plantations of soy, palm oil and timber cutting are destroying the lungs of our Earth ( the rain forests ) at a rate of 6000 acres per hour. This loss of vegetation, and the burning of fossil fuel has resulted in serious climate change already. Facilitator Bee Winfield said ” Conventional Agriculture is a major contributor to GHG , and a dying occupation, however organic growing can save the Earth. She stressed that through our buying habits “we create the world we want.“
Bee said “Artificial fertiliser is not only contributing to climate change and air pollution by its manufacture, but when applied to soils, kills off the soil food web. This is why foods are so low in minerals compared to 30 years ago. She said “The marketing to children of junk ( processed) foods is really killing our children and our planet. Obesity alone is bankrupting our health system.”
A slide of an orang-outang clinging to a lone tree after bulldozers clear felled several square miles of his rainforest home for palm oil, prompted Yvonne to share how her partner & son were currently trekking in a Malaysian rainforest & had visited a tribe whose children are sick and dying from the poisoned creeks flowing from the palm plantations. The point was brought home by an array of left over snack chips, waves and rings from a function held in the same hall the night before.
After a lot of grim news, came the exciting news that our farms and gardens can become healthy eco systems which rely on a web of pest and predator. The group was encouraged to view a pest outbreak as a breeding ground for predators, and shown how to bring insect eating birds, reptiles and bats to their horticultures. The “soil food web” contains 1/3 of all living things on Earth. Tilling and use of fungicides annihilates important microscopic life forms. Bee claims that 3 years or less after conversion to organics a farmer will find no use for chemicals and use less fuel.
The school kindly lent Bee an older microscope for the workshop, to analyse soil from the community garden pathways and compare it to soil microbes in composted beds. Unfortunately we lacked magnification and couldn’t see much, although a Manjimup boy managed to focus in on a leaf, to his joy. An aerobic compost heap teems with “good guy ” microbes and we saw microscopic slides of a bad bug nematode being lassoed by a fungal hypha. We then saw a tomato root unprotected by mychorrizal fungi with a root eating nematode going right in to feed! There were also slides of predatory nematodes which consume root feeders types .
The workshop culminated in a compost tea brewing demonstration. After a few days aeration the tea is full of beneficial bugs which when sprayed out on the leaves and soil can “miraculously” improve soil structure and water logging, get rid of pesticide residues, prevent nutrient and lime applicatons leaching away, increase nutrients in plants (because the microbes dissolve minerals from our sand, silt and clay and hold them near the plant roots in plant available form), and reduce watering costs by up to 70%. A well fed plant does not send out stress signals which attract ” Natures Garbage Collectors”…… the pests and diseases. The reasons why properly made compost gives plants resistance to pests and disease are only now coming to light with the advent of the electron microscope.
|Two brave little boys , one clearing the swale as the big boar they were feeding some oats rose to his feet!!|
On the Sunday ,16 participants coming from as far away as Perth, Collie, Donnybrook, Bridgetown, Northcliffe and Manjimup attended the Swale workshop. They were pleasantly surprised to learn about the myriad of benefits this cheap, easy & quick water harvesting installation can bring . After the workshop the group car pooled to Merri Bee Organic Farm to see the good growth of citrus and cattle fodder trees on 5 young swales. The sun shone for the first time all weekend on the sparkling water of the Blackwood river flowing by. The visitors were charmed by the sights, scents and sounds of spring on the farm, and were all very grateful to Bee and Well Being Warren Blackwood who funded the workshops.
” The secret Life of Soil ” series , exploring how to make good compost and teas from it will be an extraordinarily educational day at the farm commencing on November 2nd. Home gardeners and farmers will learn more profitable ways to grow healthy productive plants. This will cost $60.00 with optional lunch from the farm of $15.00, all organic of course. Please book early as places are limited . Email Bee : email@example.com.