When I repeated Grade 12 my English teacher Wendy Cryle taught me that bias is unavoidable. I have since come to understand that hypocrisy is unavoidable too, at least for me. Whether it’s believing that we should not use plastic bags at our weekly supermarket shop, while driving our petrol, diesel or lpg powered car to and from the supermarket, or campaigning against fracking while cooking with the very gas we campaigned against, our modern lives are littered with paradoxes. I was reminded of my own hypocrisy at least twice in the last fortnight as it was reflected to me that the very industry I criticise (conventional farming and the wholesale markets that sell conventional produce) has directly and indirectly provided much abundance, both through financial and counselling support through my father who manages a very successful wholesale business in Rocklea and my mother, whose husband and business partner owns two large chicken farms that grow intensive Chickens for Ingham’s in Queensland.
The second time I was reminded of my own hypocrisy was when I was burning landscape fabric for our permanent beds. The fabric comes in 100m rolls which I double up, place a template over and use a flame torch to burn holes in at 15cm intervals. I then separate the fabrics and lay them out on our beds. Planting into this this fabric allows us to cut down on weeding and also helps retain moisture in the soil. The fumes from the plastic have given me a sore throat before, but this time I became quite sick. The symptoms feel like the onset of a very bad flu and have persisted for over a week now. I did some research and found that the likely culprit is; Dioxin, a toxic organic chemical that contains chlorine and is produced when chlorine and hydrocarbons are heated at high temperatures. As an organic farmer committed to farming as sustainably as possible I am now aware that the causes of dioxin are everywhere, from our garden hoses, our irrigation fittings, drip tube, and the list goes on.
There are so many unsustainable practices in our modern life that I was reminded that my bias’ were separating me from the reality that any way I choose to farm bio-intesively will have effects that I am both aware of and unaware of. How is the air quality in places like China where much of these products are made? I was talking last week with my father about the fact that modern farming is interfering with nature. We choose to use shade-cloth to extend growing into warm seasons and glasshouses to extend growing into cooler seasons. Unless we choose to live in a forest off the land, we at some time will embrace unsustainable practices, the question I put to myself is, “How can I make our farming practices more sustainable?”. We have researched our shade-cloth and landscape fabric and have found they are both UV stabilised, which means sunlight is not hot enough to cause dioxin production, but we will be phasing out burning more fabrics in favour of a paper-pot transplanter, (more about the wonders of this invention at a later date).
My bias still remains that despite all the effects setting up our garden has had on the environment, we are creating more life than we are destroying. This is evident in the life of the soil, the abundance of worms, frogs, bugs, insects and the many birds that frequent the garden to feast each day and the quality and Lifeforce we experience in the produce we are blessed to grow and provide to the community. I also know that any water that lands on our garden and filters into the streams and rivers is clean, and I am grateful for that.
With my unavoidable bias and inevitable hypocrisy, I’ll keep farming organically, learning when and where I can do so more sustainably and therein hopefully make a difference, and I give thanks for those who have provided so much abundance to me through avenues I was unprepared to navigate myself. It appears to me we are all in this together and I have become aware that criticism of another’s choices exposes my own flaws, whereas saying thank you for what has been given so generously and creating my own tapestry to pass on exposes my flaws and my strengths.
My goodness this garden is a wonderful teacher.
Thank you to all who are supporting this opportunity, especially to my father and mother, I love you both dearly.
By Isaac Robson