Genuine Food Security = Abundance & Accessible Natural and/or Organic Nutritious Food = (Waste Management x Sustainability Factor) / Erroneous Notion of Soilless Farming
– Melvin Tong
How certain can you verify the authenticity of the “organic” food you buy? You can never be certain that’s for sure. Organic certification is over rated and brings with it undue inconsistencies and loopholes that have been sorely abused. A farmer can go all chemical-free but at the end of the day, neighbouring air/water pollutants may pay them a visit every other day.
But hey, I’m feeding the chickens with scraps that may be chemically-laced?! Yes indeed; but as a poor farmer, I will do everything I can to ensure my chicken/ducks continue to stand on their two feed to make a living while preserving the environment. I believe a natural farmer should maintain a healthy balance between having good agroecological practices that prevail over challenges posed by an increasingly globalized and profit/growth-driven capitalistic modern civilization. That’s why I don’t consider my produce organic, but instead, natural. They feed on natural food, not pellets. Slower growth but sustainable. Naturally, they are rightfully priced higher and healthier.
Most kampong chickens/ducks are fed with commercial feed consists of likely imported GMO corn and soy to supplement/boost growth. They are then sold as premium organic meat/eggs. This is a highly questionable practice (even if they are still free ranging) that is bordering on short changing their customers. They are fed commercial feed because it’s been drummed into them that if they don’t, they will never succeed in raising a healthy egg-laying/meat-producing flock of birds. A chick pops out of the egg, and you have to buy A and B to feed it in the shortest possible C time so you can derive a meager nett profit of D. The entire poultry industry is a carefully calculated business plan, and it ain’t about planning for your good health.
Governments will not discontinue the import of feed because it’s a source of income to them. Hence, a rejection of poultry sustained on commercial feed is an open act of rebellion against unethical practices of the powers that be. More importantly, this rejection is in direct support of protecting the environment (most pesticide-laden GMO corn and soy is grown large scale on monocrop plantations) and championing for a true state of food security in the country, where there should be zero reliance on animal feed import. Case in point, who will end up a loser if one of the major international shipping lanes is blocked, thereby driving up prices of feed and subsequently chicken/ducks in the country? Consumers will be crying foul over rising food price!
What then is sustainable? Sustainability qualifies when food is produced with not just care for the environment, but with as little to no reliance on unreliable/unnecessary/costly external inputs. If it’s energy and resource-intensive to produce food, where required inputs and raw ingredients have to be flown in from halfway across the globe, then that is not sustainable. Interestingly, even if food is produced locally but in a manner that is not passively regenerating soil fertility, it shouldn’t be considered sustainable. In other words, a food item is sustainable if the nett positive benefits it brings in terms of improvement of soil health/environment and nutrient content it affords far outweigh the perceived negative outcomes it imposes in return. More often than not, perceived negative sentiments is due to issues of palatability and lack of consumer awareness/marketing . For example, cassava, moringa, papayas and turi (sesbania grandiflora) are immensely nutritional and considered superfoods with great potential to sustain a population in times of crisis; not curly kales or durians. It’s definitely more cool and socially acceptable to be eating apples than moringa, hence the sidelining of the aforementioned under dogs but true unsung heroes of sustenance.
Here at My Kampung Life, we manufacture our very own nutrient-dense high protein/fat/amino acid BSFL (black soldier fly larvae) from tonnes of food waste collected every month. I’m still very much perfecting the workflow processes. A large-scale production system will enable a more consistent and bountiful harvest of raw inputs (larvae of various stages) to support the farm as animal feed and fertilizer. Yes, fertilizer for plants. Insect poop or frass is a potent soil enhancer. Truly a zero waste approach where there isn’t too much of a good thing when everything is fed back into the soil beneath our feet, unbeknown to us.
The idea is this. Animals is considered one of a couple of key elements in a healthy ecosystem that drives other parts of a permaculture system (pest control, soil fertility, edible yields). To ensure this pillar is well supported, it needs food, real good food. If their food needs are taken care of, we will be home free in that they will be living happily performing their natural functions to ensure their positive outcomes cascade down the chain of dependencies in a natural ecosystem. Humans are happy with good and nutritious yield of meat and eggs when animal/environment is taken care of. Win win for all resulting from such a small, if any, carbon foot print. That’s truly food security and sustainability at play.
I’m using low tech BSFL as my central argument to posit how natural and sustainable food should be in the realisation of food security in the strictest sense. Food security has nothing to do with high tech farming, the likes of vertical farming, hydroponic, aquaponic, IoT-enabled fertigation, etc; all of which do not have one thing in common: natural use of soil as carbon sequester. Any farming methods that deliberately omit use of soil or attempt to vilify the working with soil as dirty, inefficient use of fertiliser, soil erosion, water contamination, climate change, application of pesticide, etc; are an affront to the very existence of mankind for their proponents are sorely ill-informed as their perverted notion of “organic, dirt-free clean and efficient” runs counter to the very life force of our gut microbiome. Visceral indeed but not without truth. But I guess the cool “tech” factor and profit-driven view of needing to sell a “growing system” trump low-life insect tech that has supported humanity for aeons.
So, how do you know you are truly getting your monies worth when buying premium farm produce? Unfortunately, it’s all based on trust. Get in touch with your farmer, pay a visit and have a chat. As absurd as that may sound with the “T” word in this day and age, having that personal connection with your farmer is the only way to finding out how your food is really grown. I personally believe that a wholesome experience of healthy eating and living can only be supported by a multitude of small-scale natural farmers (and sometimes, selected community/urban farms) and not by large impersonal corporations, especially in reducing one’s food miles.
So let’s do ourselves a favour and check in with our favourite brands of poultry eggs/meat to ascertain if the animals are grown with commercial feed (however small the amount) because our collective actions dictate the fate of our environment and invariably, our food security.
Food security begins with plugging the holes (reduce wastage, create inputs) before learning to fill it up (growing your food, producing outputs) as one closes the food waste loop.