Organic Begins in the Soil | Nurturing a Holistic Approach

Canada’s National Organic Week is the largest annual celebration of organic food, farming and products across the country.

Forever Chemicals are Everywhere

Our environment is past a tipping point. We are now in an era of repair, not just prevention. Recent studies have shown that toxic chemicals called PFAS and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly described as "forever chemicals," are now being detected in the blood of 95% of Americans. PFAS are used broadly for various products, from the non-stick in cookware to food packaging and cosmetics. Directly linked to cancers, organ damage and other health problems, these chemicals are now everywhere. Wastewater sludge is commonly recycled into fertilizers used on farms across North America. The only problem is that this fertilizer sludge does not filter for PFAS.

A young couple in Maine purchased farmland they hoped to use to grow organic vegetables and produce. However, they soon discovered someone had been fertilizing the land for decades with recycled wastewater sludge filled with PFAS. Once these chemicals enter the soil, it can be complicated to get them out.

The Organic Approach

As we think about "organic" in the spirit of Organic Week, it is crucial to think about organics as more than just a selected area of the produce section at the grocery store. Organic is a holistic approach that considers health at all levels: human health, animal health, plant health, and soil health. As all things end and begin in soil, organic, too, starts in soil.

Revitalizing the Soil

There are a few strategies to restore and revitalize soil for a holistic approach considerate of organic principles:

Phytoremediation – Phytoremediation involves using plants to absorb and break down contaminants in the soil. Certain plants, such as sunflowers, mustard greens and hemp, can accumulate toxins from the ground into their tissues, effectively removing them from the environment. Organic farmers can plant crops specifically for their phytoremediation capabilities to restore balance and health to the soil.
· Mycorrhizal fungi have shown considerable promise in phytoremediation in numerous studies. Root Rescue Transplanter is a certified organic product harnessing the power of mycorrhizal fungi to assist plant life and soil ecology safely. Root Rescue Transplanter is scientifically proven to help plants adapt to stress, such as stress from soil contamination, and thrive. Mycorrhizae are not the only fungi able to break down complex (sometimes toxic) molecules into harmless elements.

Mycoremediation: Far more ancient than vascular plants, Fungi evolved, diversified, and thrived on a desolate early Earth where they could only find sustenance in rocks, gravel, and sand. The ability to "make a living" in a bad situation became a survival priority – and many forms of fungi today still have and use the unique ability to "Eat Rocks." This survival skill means that many fungi can digest toxic (often) man-made molecules – breaking them down into harmless smaller molecules and elements. These fungi are simply looking for lunch, but in the process, they de-toxify our world and release nutrients for the use of other lifeforms (like you and me). Many of the most efficient fungi at Mycoremediation are also delicious edible mushrooms you can enjoy in your lunch (such as Oyster Mushrooms)! 

Composting: Composting is a natural process that can help reduce the toxicity of contaminated soil. Composting helps improve soil structure by increasing organic matter content and promoting microbial activity. Beneficial microorganisms created in the composting process can assist in the breaking down and detoxifying of soil contaminants. Learn how to get started composting at home in our previous post - International Compost Awareness Week.

Crop Rotation and Cover Cropping: Implementing crop rotation and cover crops restores the soil by increasing soil microbes' biodiversity. Using different plant species maximizes their varying abilities to extract and break down contaminants.

Thinking Organically

What are some things we can do to think about organic in a holistic way?

· Search for PFAS-free products and shop organic. Here is a great resource to find which brands/ companies offer PFAS-free products.

· Include plants in your garden that are used explicitly for phytoremediation.

· Grow your own Organic Oyster and Shiitake Mushrooms at home.

· Start a compost in your yard or start a community compost.

· Create an organic community garden.

· Participate in Organic Week events.

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