At the heart of good food growing are four principles: agroecology, food sovereignty, economic democracy, and respect for traditional knowledge. Garden Organic are pleased to be involved in the very first Wales Real Food and Farming Conference because we certainly hold the traditional knowledge on how to grow fruit and veg the organic way. Over 60 years ago, our founder Lawrence Hills, wanted not only to celebrate organic practices by creating the HDRA (Henry Doubleday Research Association) but – perhaps more importantly – to encourage further research into what works, how and why.
His vision was for HDRA members to help with research into organic growing. An early example of citizen science. In 1958, he wrote “We offer to ordinary people the absorbing interest of small scale scientific research in fields where discoveries of value are possible because so little is known. Messrs Fisons spend £750,000 a year on research, but can only spend to find chemical answers. The organic ones are waiting to be found.”
And so, since 1958 the society (now known as Garden Organic) has delivered papers and ideas on subjects as diverse as comfrey, baby food, hedgehogs, green manures, nettles, blight resistance, companion planting, slug control, carrot fly deterrents, and so the list goes on…. With very limited funds, a lot of enthusiasm, and amateur expertise, there were in total 550 different experiments over 60 years.
Coupled with this, HDRA / Garden Organic staff created gardens and growing areas which put the organic principles into practice. For twenty years the research team looked at weed, pest and disease management. Funded by DEFRA, these research case studies are still the go to resource for any organic grower. They wrote numerous books and leaflets, and latterly the popular Principles of Organic Growing – a simple guide to the underlying principles behind growing your own fruit and vegetables the ecological, sustainable and organic way. So what does this have to do with a farming conference, you might ask. Well, if every garden, allotment, community growing space was combined you would get an area the size of Norfolk. Coincidentally this area (just over 500,000 hectares) is the same as the amount of land farmed organically in the UK. As Prof. Dave Goulson writes in his plea for home growing in order to enhance natural habitats and offset the damage of chemical agriculture, “We are all farmers now.” And Garden Organic is still there to offer advice and encouragement to make us small farmers, organic farmers. We look forward to meeting all our Welsh growers at the conference, and in the meantime you can find out more about the work of Garden Organic by visiting www.gardenorganic.org.uk