Good for you and for the environment

Our quinoa is completely free from chemical nasties, fossil fuel fertilizers, pesticides, artificial colours and preservatives.

All agriculture was organic just over 100 years ago, until the chemicals industry decided to improve things – Agent Orange anyone?

Now organic agriculture has become the exception rather than the rule. When we started spraying our fields with toxic chemicals to create tasteless mountains of excess production it all seemed pretty sensible and smelled of progress. But then in the 80s we didn’t know what to do with our ‘butter mountains’ and excess production. So the European Agricultural Fund now pays farmers not to grow crops. It’s a strange world isn’t it? We are poisoning our bodies and environment to produce too much.

As well as being devout Catholics, the smallhold farmers in Cabana (Peru) believe in the earth goddess Pachamama. So for them it is second nature to be respectful of the environment. And by the way, the yields they achieve aren’t much different from those of other areas that use chemicals.

Traditional Farming

Traditional ploughing is used as tractors damage the thin soil at 4000m altitude where this is grown. This is gruelling work but avoids the wind erosion that has become common in many other organic and non-organic quinoa holdings.

Strict crop rotation is observed, with the land left fallow for three years, to allow the soil to regenerate naturally. Currently they plant potatoes in the first year, quinoa years 2 and 3, followed by the fallow period. However, the cooperative is trying to encourage farmers to take on new farming techniques by planting nitrogen fixing plants such as alfalfa during the fallow years. Not only does this fix nitrogen back into the soil (like synthetic fossil fuel based fertilizers do) but also provides forage for livestock. The farmers are all keen to do this- they just need to be taught how to do it and source the capital to proceed (we are working on the latter).

It is one thing to go from conventional monoculture agriculture to organic monoculture agriculture, which quite clearly is a big step in the right direction, but for organic farming to be properly sustainable it requires the type of approach that the Cabana farmers have always taken by using mixed agriculture.

The Spanish Conquistadores outlawed the production of quinoa some 500 years ago. They didn’t like the religious devotion that was afforded the plant, with the Inca emperor planting the first seeds with a golden trowel. In some ways they did us a favour. As quinoa only survived in small pockets in the Andes it has never been properly subjected to human selection for adaptive genes, as have most other domesticated plants and cereals. This means that there is still a very wide gene pool of varieties of quinoa being grown. This makes it a resistant crop to any natural diseases that appear, thus reducing the risk of catastrophe.

A Better Protein Alternative

‘Livestock are responsible for 18% of greenhouse gases that cause global warming, more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together’ (Food & Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, 2006)

  • Meat is a very carbon intensive industry
  • Meat is also a huge water user.
  • Regardless of the pros and cons of battery farming meat (and the genetically modified soya grown in the deforested Amazon that goes to feed it), anything that can replace meat consumption occasionally is great news.

And if you are worried about it coming from so far away (rightly so) remember that it is shipped on boats whose carbon footprint is one tenth of that of a truck (based on carbon emissions per kilometre per tonne carried), and less than 100th compared to airfreight.