About 25 years ago I went to give a talk to the Malahide Horticultural Society. I still recall this incident with great amusement. I arrived smartly dressed in plenty of time before the talk and the person who greeted me said "Oh, you're very early. If you'd like to just sit there the organic person will be here before very long." I replied  - "I'm 'it' - the organic person". Whereupon his jaw dropped in stunned disbelief, and he said "But you don't look like an organic person!".  Perhaps I should have arrived dressed like a hippy in a hair shirt and sandals- I am the same generation after all!  There do seem to be an awful lot of preconceived notions about organically-minded people! They actually come in all shapes and sizes and don't belong to any particular club!

I'm constantly amazed by the number of journalists and other commentators these days who seem to feel somehow threatened by the organic way of doing things. Why?  What are they afraid of?  They try to portray organic growing as some kind of religion or cult, calling us organic fascists - or the latest description I heard was 'Organorexics'!!  That's a good one - most amusing!  A well known nutritionist recently coined that phrase - but if she'd bothered to inform herself of the latest research - she would have actually found that there is an increasing body of scientific evidence that suggests many essential minerals and cancer fighting phytonutrients etc. are present in far larger amounts in organically grown food. This is quite apart from the appalling 'cocktails' of various chemicals that conventionally grown crops may be sprayed with.  Any research that has been done into such combinations shows that the individual chemicals can become many times more toxic when combined with certain others in our bodies. It's almost as if some people think that if they accept there may be something in the organic argument, then that would be tantamount to saying they had been misleading themselves and everyone else for years!  We seem to be somehow threatening to undermine their whole belief system!  So what!  To those people I say - "don't panic - it's only organic"! No one's forcing anything on anyone! There's an old saying - "it's a wise man who knows what he doesn't know" - (and a brave one who admits it, I say!)  People sometimes say to me "don't tell me - I'd rather not know what I'm eating" that's a bit like saying they'd rather not know that they could get hit by a car when crossing the road in the rush hour, when alternatively they could choose to cross the road when there's no traffic on it!  If you're going to make a choice - at least make it an informed choice! Particularly if you are feeding the vulnerable growing bodies of young children. There's enough pollution in the world these days that we simply can't avoid even if we want to! Why give our bodies even more to deal with when we don't have to? It's a complete no-brainer for me!

Years ago I used to get that attitude from the old-fashioned chemical farmers - I'm glad to say that these days, a lot of them are far more open to the idea of organic farming. Maybe many of them just see a marketing opportunity but perhaps some can begin to see the enormous damage being done to the soils by conventional farming systems, the damage to soil structure leading to lack of proper drainage and flooding, soil erosion with consequent run off into rivers and subsequent pollution, and the massive destruction of habitats leading to the loss of biodiversity and wildlife. Over the span of my lifetime living in the country, I've watched a beautiful countryside, with sparklingly clear streams and rivers and a fantastic diversity of trees, wildflowers and wildlife, in some cases becoming virtual agricultural deserts, silent of birdsong, polluted like open sewers and degraded almost beyond redemption. It makes me literally weep. What a legacy for future generations! I don't want to eat food grown somewhere like that or feed it to my children!  Luckily, in so many places in the world plenty of people are attempting to reverse this trend but they are having to fight the balance sheets of huge multinational interests all the way. It will take many years to even partially restore the proper balance of Nature as it has evolved over millennia but we can halt it's decline even further if we care enough - even though some of it is sadly lost forever.

I made the organic choice 35 years ago when my first child was born with severe allergy problems and nearly died. I hadn't really thought about it until then, even though I'd always loved the countryside and all it's wonderful riches. I then had to learn how to grow chemical-free food fast because I couldn't buy it in those days. Luckily at least these days people do have a choice - but unfortunately often a more expensive one. Although that can very often be caused by the shops and supermarkets cynically profiteering - not by the organic growers or farmers, who in most cases earn very little more for something which is far more expensive to actually produce organically. Though less expensive in every possible way for our environment!

'The Environment' isn't just some abstract place that exists in our minds - it is our address - it is where we live, breathe, eat and raise our children. I want to eat food grown in a living soil that has evolved to sustain all living things healthily, not food grown in some chemically polluted, dead wasteland. I don't want to kill hedgehogs, birds, bees and all the other wildlife that enriches our lives just because I don't want a hole in my lettuce or need a tomato that lasts six weeks on the supermarket shelf!

As you can see - I care deeply about all of these things. I hope you do too. Together we can make a difference. Over the years I have been fortunate enough to meet many wonderful people who care just as passionately as I do and have devoted much of their lives to trying to making our world a better, safer, more diverse, more beautiful and less polluted place.  It has been my enormous privilege .

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