organic soil maintenance

Soil Maintenance for Organic Farms

Growing organic produce, cotton, and other crops is about more than not spraying chemicals. While avoiding chemicals is important, soil maintenance is also a main focus for organic farmers. The soil is a crucial component to growing and many organic farmers are quite mindful of their soil health and care. Building healthy, strong soil can be quite an extensive process. Conventional farming techniques aren’t generally focused on soil health. It can take farmers many years to build up the fertility and quality of their soil.
Through maintaining fertile soil, farmers increase the nutrients in the soil. Healthy nutrients in the soil subsequently increase the nutrients in their food. Many people comment on the difference in flavor between a small organic farm and a large conventional farm. Soil health is a key component to healthy, beautiful, delicious crops. Organic farming practices involve slowly released nutrients into the earth. This boosts the health of microorganisms, fungi, bacteria, and protozoa that all work together to maintain soil health.
Rows of crops on farm with rich soil
Compost is often a major part of developing well-tended organic soil. Initially, many farmers use “trench composting” as a way to build up soil health. This is especially popular practice when taking over a conventional farm or beginning to farm on the new land. In trench composting, deep trenches are dug in the soil. The farmer then dumps compost into these trenches and buries it. This allows the compost to break down in the Earth which boosts beneficial organisms, micro-flora, etc. available in the soil.
Farmers will almost always maintain a compost pile as well. (tip- if you live somewhere you can’t compost, like an apartment, reach out to local farms. They’ll almost always be willing to take your compost and may even share some crops). Farms can purchase composters which help break the materials down faster in order to spread over the earth, or till into the soil.
Using “compost tea” is also a popular method for maintaining healthy soil. This is the liquid that comes off a standard compost pile. Farmers will often collect some compost and allow it to break down in a container, dilute with water and use it to water their crops. This provides a natural fertilizer and needed moisture.
Compost pile
Composting is involved in most organic farming operations
Nutrient cycling is also a main component to organic soil maintenance. Allowing plant remnants, lawn clippings, and leaves to break down on the soil helps provide nutrients to the soil. Proper and mindful watering, aeration, and pest control also allow the nutrients in the soil to cycle through naturally. By aerating the soil, water, oxygen, and nutrients are able to get into the soil and get to roots more easily. Aeration usually occurs once or twice during the farming season.
Farmers who tend to soil health also get the added benefit of more effective watering. Plants hold onto moisture better, and the soil filters out anything potentially damaging to the plants.
With simple pH test strips, farmers are able to get great information about the health and quality of their soil. There are also labs in which farmers can send samples of their soil for analysis. These labs will let farmers know percentages of minerals, bacteria, fungi, molds, nutrients, chemicals, pesticides, and more present in their soil. Farmers can actually alter the health of their soil by crop cycling, planting specific crops near one another, adding in specific organic nutrients, and by irrigation and watering with specific methods.
By developing fertile soil, crops grow stronger, pests are less likely to take hold and disease does not spread as rapidly among crops. Maintaining healthy soil is a huge benefit for organic farmers and well worth the time and effort they put into it. Try visiting an organic farm someday, dig your hands into the earth and take notice of the rich soil. The difference is obvious and beautiful.

All About Organic Cotton Certification

We’re all familiar with the Organic logo on our food.  As the popularity of organic living increases, more and more people are looking to start using organic cotton in their homes as well.  Unlike organic foods, there are no regulations on use of the term “organic cotton.”  In fact, conventional farmers can claim they have certified organic cotton when they don’t have anything even close to organic cotton.

Will the real Organic Cotton please stand up?

Fortunately, certification boards exist for farmers to verify they are producing the real deal.  The process can take up to three years, and farms must go through a stringent verification in order to become officially certified organic.  This helps the consumer greatly, however, by allowing you to know you’re getting actual organic cotton instead of an intruder.

Certification Terms

If there are companies claiming to be growing “certified organic cotton” that aren’t actually doing so, what should consumers look for?  Keep an eye out for these certifications to know you’re getting the real thing:

  • GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) This is the most desirable certification, it ensures not only organic content but also socially and sustainably responsible processing
  • OE (Organic Exchange)
    • You’ll usually see OE 100 or OE Blended.  OE100 is 100% organic cotton but it might not be processed organically.  OE Blended contains at least 5% organic cotton.
  • OCS (Organic Content Standard)
    • This certification helps to assure organic farming practices

How much organic cotton is being grown?

Cotton accounts for a significant amount of the crops grown worldwide.  It’s also the largest water-consuming crop in the world.  Organic cotton uses less water and helps to boost the local water supply and food quality of nearby farms.  Organic cotton is now grown in over a dozen countries, by over 200,000 thousand farms and over 500,000 bales are grown annually.  Even with these massive numbers, less than 1% of cotton grown worldwide is certified organic!  Organizations are working to educate cotton farmers on the benefits of growing organic cotton, as well as to expedite the process of organic certification.

In America, organic cotton is mostly grown in California, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Texas.  Over 80% of the organic cotton grown in the US is grown in Texas.

Who are these farmers?

Most farmers growing organic cotton have been cotton farmers for generations.  While we are increasingly losing our connections to our ancestors who farmed here in America, millions of people make their living farming worldwide and farming is still a massive part of many communities worldwide.  Farmers are often eager to switch over to organic practices once they learn the benefits such as:

  • Decreased water use
  • Healthier soil
  • Increased ability to grow other plants nearby
  • Cleaner water for their community
  • Higher pay
  • Less expense overall (GMO seeds can be up to 10 times more expensive than organic cotton seeds.)
  • Greater crop yield
  • Significantly less health risks

Plus, many farms become certified Fair Trade as well as obtaining organic certification.  This serves as a major benefit all the way from farmer to seamstress.

How do companies become certified?

The organic cotton certification process is an extremely lengthy process.  Each certifying organization has slightly different regulations. The general process is fairly similar.  It can take several years for the process to become completed.  However, as the demand for Organic cotton grows, the process will hopefully become less time intensive as more staff can work on certifying the farms.  Certification and organic practices don’t end at the farm, however.  The processing facilities, spinning, weaving, milling, etc. for conventional cotton use massive amounts of chemicals.  Organic cotton textile certifications must go from the farm to the consumer.

In order to become certified textile companies must:

  • Use non-GMO cotton seeds
  • Never use synthetic pesticides
  • Undergo certification verifying the spinning factory can process organic cotton and adhere to organic practices
  • Certify organic processes at the farms
  • Farms must have an ecosystem management plan in place
  • Apply through the accredited third-party & pass all inspections, as well as an annual inspection
  • Rotate crops
  • Farms must avoid defoliants
  • Undergo contamination and residue testing
  • Obtain all the proper scope certifications, this varies based on certifying organization but can include certificates for Farming, Ginning, Spinning, Weaving, Dyeing and Finishing, Sewing and the Retailer

The inspections and process often include a 2-3 year period where the farm is transitioning from convention cotton growth to organic.  Many of the third party certifiers work alongside farms to help ensure the process and help farmers understand the new requirements for their farming practices.  An in-depth look at all finances will take place as well to ensure that all funds are being spent on proper items.  In addition, all storage, harvesting, processing, and water facilities will be assessed and viewed in the inspection process.  

The process is extremely lengthy and involved.  In the end, it’s worth it to create a cleaner and healthier product for all involved.

How can I help?

The best way to help increase the yield of organic cotton grown is to vote with your dollar.  By buying organically grown, and processed, cotton the demand increases.  As demand increases more farms will make the switch.  If everyone switched over to organic cotton the impact would be drastic on our global food and water supply.  

 

Keep an eye here on our blog to learn more about organic and natural fibers.

About Organic Cotton

At Kasper Organics we pride ourselves on sourcing only the highest quality and cleanest products we can find. Sourcing products mostly made from organic cotton grown in the USA. Many customers come to us after spending years reacting to their own clothing and textiles and are thrilled to find relief by switching to organic cotton. Others come to us seeking fabric that carries less of an environmental impact, and less of a health risk to the farmers (and their families) growing the crops. Organic cotton fills all these desires and more.

Conventional Cotton Basics
The growth of conventional cotton accounts for a significant amount of toxic chemicals, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers. Over 15% of the world’s pesticide use, and 25% of the world’s insecticide use, goes into the production of conventional cotton. Additionally, conventional cotton accounts for drastic amounts of greenhouse gas emissions and groundwater damage. Farmers growing conventional cotton are not only more likely to be paid an unfair wage, they often suffer lifelong health effects or even death, as a result of their trade. In the usa, it is likely to be the migrant workers and their families who work in the fields, are poorly paid and suffer from exposure to toxic chemicals.

The Organic Difference
An increasing number of people are struggling with autoimmune and chronic health diseases. Respiratory illness, allergies, and environmental sensitivities are also drastically on the rise. People are turning to organic foods as a result. Doesn’t it make sense to choose organic cotton fabrics as well? Why put so much emphasis on what goes into our bodies while ignoring the sensitive organ that covers our entire body. Absorbing from everything that touches it?  When we wear conventional cotton, we are spending all day (and night) with toxic residues from our clothing, bedding, etc., all over our bodies. Have you ever been exposed to poison ivy or poison oak?  You had an intense reaction – and you didn’t even have to eat it. Exposure to your skin alone was more than enough!

Cream, brown and natural organic cotton blankets
Super soft organic cotton blankets

Organic cotton offers numerous benefits to farmers and consumers. Consumers lower their toxic load, benefit the environment, and get a higher quality product. Farmers benefit not only with their well-being, but with a better yield, numerous benefits to their farm, like more biodiversity and healthier soil, so they can feel secure knowing that they are preserving their farmland into the future. And helping to preserve our natural environment, and prevent it from becoming increasingly toxic.

Quality
While the upfront cost may be slightly more than conventional clothing at your big box stores, organic cotton clothing will hold through many more washes, and stay looking and feeling great. Getting softer with each washing. And when you have worn out an organic cotton item, you can compost it and give it back to the earth! Or cut it up to make non-toxic hankies and rags.

How to Start with Organic Cotton
Organic cotton clothing, towels and bed linens are all good starting places. Anything that goes directly against t your skin, or you are spending significant amounts of time in are good considerations for organic cotton. Try not to feel overwhelmed. Start small and replace things in your wardrobe and home gradually. Budget for a purchase of one or two items each payday suggest some items as birthday and holiday gifts.

Socks are a really great place to start. (for gift giving, as well as gift receiving.) Your socks help snug against the vulnerable skin on your feet all day! And it’s a small item. Lot’s of people buy organic cotton socks as gifts. Before you know it you will have lots of clean, healthy organic clothing that you will not only love to wear, but feel healthier in, and proud to know that you are making a difference! Not only for the environment but you are creating healthier, fair-wage jobs with every purchase.

Let’s talk certification. This page is still a work in progress, so the information provided below is not a complete overview.

GOTS: Global Organic Textile Standard

The information below is excerpts of information from their website. You can read more here:  GOTS

General Description

“The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibres, including ecological and social criteria, backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain . . . “

Aim

” . . . to define world-wide recognized requirements that insure organic status of textiles, from harvesting of the raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing up to labeling in order to provide a credible assurance to the end consumer.”

You can see the GOTS Certification for Organics and More, the manufacturer of our sheets, blankets and towels here:
GOTS Certificate

More soon.

 

About Multiple Chemical Sensitivities

Multiple chemical sensitivities, or MCS, is a medical condition where a person has a  sensitivity to chemicals greater than the general population, and/or at lower concentrations. Exact numbers are difficult to obtain, but MCS is plaguing an increasing number of people each year.
People who have MCS become ill when exposed to a variety of chemicals, many of which are commonly encountered in everyday life: pesticides (food and clothing,) perfumes and colognes, and other scented products. Also fresh paint, new carpets, and many building materials. Not surprisingly; solvents, smoke, vehicle exhaust, industrial fumes can be culprits. And many cleaning products, even fresh ink. Also laundry detergents, air “fresheners,” fabric softeners, incense, most soaps, essential oils, shampoos and hair products, and body lotions. Pesticides and solvents are the main culprits. Symptoms can occur after inhaling, touching or ingesting these substances. A person with MCS may react to mold, pollen, animal dander, and dust, although the symptoms may be different from those of traditional allergies.
Some people have only mild chemical sensitivities, while others have a more severe form of the illness called MCS. Many people with MCS also have chronic fatigue syndrome or CFS.
It is difficult to determine how many people suffer from MCS, but it is safe to say that a large number of the population is affected by MCS issues, and many of them struggle significantly with even the basics of day-to-day life because of the health issues that have arisen as a result. An increasing number of doctors are recognizing MCS as well, and speculate the actual numbers of the population with MCS are quite large.
Multiple chemical sensitivities seem like kind of a generic name. To a certain extent, it needs to be. MCS is people reacting to chemicals, and there are so many chemicals in the world today that it can be quite costly, if even possible, to identify which specific chemicals someone is reacting to. One study stated that we are exposed to more chemicals in the first week of life than our grandparents were exposed to their entire lives. And new chemicals are being manufactured every day.  MCS is the term given to people who have some sort of reaction or sensitivity to these chemicals.

How do people get MCs?

For many individuals with MCS, their symptoms developed gradually over time. it can be difficult to say exactly how one gets an MCS, it’s not an illness like a cold that is spread. For many people, however, they can name a specific incident which occurred following which reactions begin to be noticed.
One of our customers began having sensitivities to chemicals after her work building was sprayed with everyone still inside! Other individuals note becoming chemically sensitive after being in an area that was crop dusted sprayed Airlie for mosquitoes or another sort of large exposure to chemicals while some people seem to develop MCS following about of a virus or health challenge for others the symptoms come on gradually and it can be a long and Rocky Road to finally determining MCS is that the root of their illness.
The severity of symptoms in people with MCS varies. Some individuals might experience anaphylactic reactions to exposure to certain chemicals, while others may experience symptoms milder that they pass them off as increasing annoyances. Obtaining a diagnosis of MCS can take many years and oftentimes it is through a lot of research and work on their own the MCS is finally identified.

Helping with MCS

We live in such a complex world that life with MCS can be truly overwhelming. Here are some of the tips traditionally given to MCS sufferers:
  • Removing chemical based body care products and switch to Natural alternatives.
    • Many MCS sufferers use the phrase “if it’s not something I put in my mouth it’s not something I’ll put on my skin.”
  • Eating organic food.
  • Drinking filtered water
  • Wearing a face mask when exposure is possible.
  • Switching to organic cotton clothing, bedding, sheets towels, etc. Often times MCS sufferers do best with undyed, unbleached organic cotton clothing.
  • Avoiding chemical-based cleaning products perfumes, paints, etc.
  • Washing everything before bringing it into their home.
  • Many people with MCS will rebuild or renovate their homes to be chemical free.
  • Connecting with others. Life with MCS can feel incredibly isolating. Connecting with others through social media can be incredibly powerful.