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Why organically-grown veggies seem to cost more

July 11, 2019 - Thursday 4:07 AM by Jimmy Laking

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Sometime in the past, one municipal official asked aloud why organically-grown vegetables seemed to cost more over the counter than traditionally-grown vegetables.

It was one query that could have been appreciated better had this official been to an organic farm, which he never had.

In my mother’s hometown in La Trinidad, for example, there is the “Lily of the Valley” organic farm that has incorporated vermi-culture in its system, long before municipal officials discovered how African crawlers do wonders to a farm in the Bukidnon city of Valencia.

There is Pat Acosta’s showcase of a farm in Barangay Puguis in the same municipality that has established a respected clientele for Baguio City and beyond.

Jefferson Laruan, one of Benguet’s leading practitioners, says the prices are just about right and that the official’s concern stemmed from lack of understanding.

He added that health-wise, the organic products have 200% more nutritional contents that those conventionally-grown.

“One-fourth kilo of lettuce grown the organic way contains enough calcium and Vitamin C to feed four people in one serving,” he said. “Hence, the consumer need not buy by the kilo.”

The other difference is that while the system does not entail a heavy dosage of commercial inputs, it is labor-intensive on the part of the grower.

Jeff said the most intensive part is composting to the preparation of the soil. One practitioner named Wilson Capuyan also saw to it that only those leaves from bushes located far from the road are gathered as compost materials, since those visible on the roadside may contain lead acquired from the fumes and smokes spewed by passing vehicles.

Nor is any animal dung just about fit to be mixed into the compost. Jeff said the most ideal are cow, carabao, horse and goat dung. A virtual no-no is to mix these with dog or cat dung as these are known to contain pathogens harmful to one’s health.

For the same reason, no organic farmer would use chicken dung (which contains mostly nitrogen) unless this is processed or composted to rid it of its harmful contents.

Dr. Jau-Fei Chen, writing for Food and Nutrition, cited a study to show that organic foods have higher nutritional value than commercially grown food. For potato, he said the study showed that commercial potato contained 40% more aluminum, 10% more cadmium, 10% more lead, and 70% more mercury.

“In contrast, the organic sample of potato contained 110% more boron, 110% more calcium,50% more chromium, 0% more cobalt, 30@ more copper, 0% more iodine, 0% more iron, 200% more lithium, 50% more magnesium,0% more manganese, 50% more molybdenum, nickel 50%, 0% more phosphorus, 22% more potassium, 120% more selenium, 310% more silicon, 140% more sodium, 160% more strontium, 0% more vanadium, and 60% more zinc.”

“There is a great effort to make the soil free from harmful elements so as to produce safe and nutritious vegetables,” Jeff said, by way of differentiating how the system differs from the conventional.

“So for all the back-breaking efforts that the organic farmer puts into the farm and in ensuring that consumers get to consume healthy veggies, it is only fair that the prices need not be compared with those grown in conventional farms,” he said.