Interview with Sara Harker on Organic farming

Ditch those pastas, pizzas, and other conventional food products; this year around make a commitment towards a healthier life with organic food products. The term organic refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. From improving the immune system to fighting cancer, from being superior in taste to irradiated (irradiation kills bacteria and extends food life) – organic products serve all the purposes. Further these products are really safe for consumption by babies and children as they have fewer pesticides.

With these innumerable benefits, there are no second thoughts about why more and more people are opting for organic products as well as organic farming.

One such woman who is inspired by this organic magic is Sara Harker. She is a part of the 5th Generation at Harker’s Organics and Rustic Roots Winery in Cawston, Canada’s Organic Hospital. Harker’s Organics received 2012 Family Farm of the Year Award by the BC Institute of Agrologists as well as Most Sustainable Business in the Okanagan by Eat Magazine. Sara has a background in Environmental Sciences and is the Wine Maker for Rustic Roots Winery. Previously being a president and now a current board member of the Similkameen Wineries Association, Sara sits as the youngest VQA Wine Assessor in BC.

SaraQ. Tell us something about organic farming and how can one start this?

Organic farming aims to create integrated, humane, environmentally and economically sustainable agriculture. The main objective of sustainability lies in the heart of organic farming. In its widest sense, the term ‘sustainable’ is to encompass not just conservation of non-renewable resources, but also issues of environmental, economic and social sustainability.

One can start organic farming by choosing to work with Mother Nature rather than suppressing her. The first step to organic farming is healthy soil. One would need to assess the health of the soil and its composition and if needed increase that health by compost, green cropping and manure. Further there are some institutes that are offering courses in Organic Farming; for instance, Organic Farming Institute of British Columbia teaches step by step importance of organic farming, assessing the health of one’s soil, and some courses on how to market one’s produce. Also one can do an apprenticeship program where one would go and work on organic farm and take that experience back to start their own farm.

Q. In foreign countries organic farming is widely appreciated where as in India it’s opposite and we don’t see many women taking this as a career opportunity? What is your take on this?

Organic Farming has been growing exponentially around the world. Also, I think that it depends on your core values and what you believe both as a producer and a consumer. This increase in Organic traction is 100% consumer driven. I think it is dependent on the consumer population and their demands. The organic industry started off quite small but as consumers have become more aware of their purchasing power and the impacts they can make, the industry has grown. As demand has increased so has production. So, I think that a lot of times, all it takes is a small group of people to start farming organically, educate consumers on the importance of sustainable organic agriculture and as the consumers drive change, the producers change as well.

Q. Where do you see the growth of organic farming in the next five years?

Organic Farming has witnessed a very steady rise and I expect it to increase in the next five years. Further I hope to see not only more farmers growing organically on a commercial scale but also more people growing their own food organically at home. As the industry has increased its traction internationally, I also see more multi-national corporate farms growing organically. Although it will be conflict for the integrity of the industry and the core values of organics; but in my opinion being organic is more than just being certified and having a certified product. It is much more than that.

Q. How one can make organic farming business profitable?

Diversity is the key to profitable farming either organic or conventional. One of the keys to the success of our business is how diversified we are. Also being value added is another key to sustainable/ profitable organic farming. In other words, if one crop fails then we have another one to cover for it. As a farmer you would want to see as little waste as possible, so creating some value added: juicing, drying, preserving, or making wine with product that you can’t sell is very important. This allows the farmer to turn something that would otherwise have gone in the compost and possibly cost them money; into a value added product that can be sold and consumed.

Q. Why is organic food important?

In my opinion, organic food is important because it is sustainable. I think that in future we might see a lot of people taking up farming with an organic approach. Also I believe in Hippocrates quote “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” It is about consuming less pesticides and antibiotics and maybe more so that the health of the planet is good and there is assurance that we can continue to grow food for years.

Also while buying organic food, one should remember to buy the organic products in season and look around for other options available. Further remember that organic food does not always mean healthy, hence choose wisely. So what are you waiting, pick up your shopping bag and take your first step towards a healthier life.

What do you think?

Written by Smita Diwan

Smita Diwan is a Media & Communication evangelist with 15+ years of steady growth. She has served across diverse verticals of Broadcast Journalism, Corporate Communications, Digital Media and Public Relations. A fitness enthusiast, Smita devotes her ‘rare’ free-time to yoga and meditation. As she strongly believes that the right balance is the key to steady growth.

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