Through different systems and technologies, farmers have been able to produce food in increasingly efficient ways. One of the systems that has been used since the Middle Ages, is the 3-field, where farmers used a system of rotations between different fields. The three-field system, for instance, rotates three of four different fields on an annual basis. This system is adaptable depending on the number of fields farmers have to work with, but generally speaking this is a good way to keep the same land fertile for a long time. Despite this system functioning well, many farmers are not using this anymore. The introduction of fertilisers and pesticides have led to the abandonment of the traditional ways of farming.
Fertilisers became a new tool in the toolbelt of farmers; in the 19th century Germany kick-started this industry, but it really took off after the second World War. Many countries were trying to rebuild and needed to keep the population fed. The use of fertilisers and pesticides guaranteed large yields and the possibility to farm all year long. This model of farming is the most common one used today. The European farming industry is 90.1% conventional, meaning that it makes use of chemicals, like pesticides, instead of producing organically. (Eurostat, 2022)
The chemicals that are used in the production of our food are not beneficial for us in the long run. The crops that are being affected by fertilisers and pesticides do grow faster and have higher yields, that much is true. However, these chemicals are responsible for hindering biodiversity and ecosystems; many plants and creatures, like bees, earthworms, fungi and weeds found in and around crops die of poisoning, because of the pesticides. Additionally, pesticides used on crops drip down to the soil, which seriously harms the health of the soil and water systems. The population of many insect species is declining, so organic farming practices would have a positive effect on the continuous existence of said species. By using pesticides to kill pests, the natural enemies of these pests are also wiped out, as well as natural beneficial insects, like bees. (Gunstone, 2021)
The common usage of pesticides also presents a lot of health hazards for humans. While immediate poisoning is unlikely to occur, long-term diseases caused by these toxins range from asthma, leukaemia, Parkinson’s disease, anxiety and depression. We should not wish for the food we eat to be damaging to our health. (PanUK, 2017)
Malta has many examples of organic farming itself; in our exhibition booklet Uċuħ tar-raba’ one can see and read about ten Maltese farmers who use different types of practices to work in order to get produce in a way that makes them feel connected to their land. “Farming and good food is very important, if people don’t want to eat good food, there is no point in growing it,” says Emanuela from the Veg Box. She promotes her community by encouraging people to live differently by eating local foods. Mario says that his fascination with bees goes back to his early childhood. “I started here, you could say, from the moment I could walk.” These are just an example of Maltese farmers producing organically.
To conclude, organic farming is a way for farmers to produce without chemical pesticides and connect more to their land, resulting in more natural food that is safer for humans and nature. Although the new CAP aims to help farmers in converting to include organic practices, the specifications are kept very general and vague. For concrete examples, look no further than Malta. The exhibition booklet illustrates the varied organic farming practices that are present in the country, and the possibilities they present.
Written by Max Tilly