These days ‘organic’ and ‘sustainable’ are everywhere, from the grocery store to corporate policies. What with the looming threat of climate change and the rising cost of groceries, though, it seems that they might be more than simple buzzwords. Could they be the way forward to a better and brighter Bermuda? We spoke to local agronomist and all-round gardening expert, Malachi Troy, to get the scoop.
What are the benefits of organic and sustainable gardening?
These methods of farming are beneficial to human health as well as the environment. The technics uses are meant to work in harmony with the environment. No desertification of once fertile beautiful areas as well as reducing the effects of climate change. Financially, it promotes circulation of money within the community where these methods of farming are practiced. They also promote waste reduction and recycling.
Why are sustainable and organic gardening and farming practices so important in Bermuda?
Bermuda is an isolated 21 square mile island with over 60,000 inhabitants. More than 90% of all the goods in the market are imported – this includes seeds, soil and fertiliser. Given this, there is little to no circulation of money within the island.
When human domestication began, people migrated to find fertile farmland to start growing and developing villages and towns and Bermuda followed these trends. But with advanced development of our island, there is little-to-no agricultural sector. That leaves us vulnerable for food security and food quality and has a knock-on effect on the cost of living, as we are dependent on imported goods to survive.
We need to work on being sustainable as a country. This means seed banks, propagation labs, areas to cultivate food products and storage for them. Food security and storage of genetic material for food production are topics that can determine the future of a nation.
Bermuda needs to adapt sustainable practices not only in farming but in how it creates energy and uses materials that are seen as waste both native and imported. Along with these adaptations there must be developments and modifications to prepare for the effects of climate change. Soil production is one of the most important techniques that Bermuda needs to learn. Climate change and poor soil management practices have allowed the island’s topsoil to become less fertile because of reduced biodiversity and erosion. Sustainable practices are also ways to adapt soils and plants to the fast change climate, healthy soils allow plants to have high immune systems.
What are the challenges?
Here in Bermuda one of the biggest challenges are that we do not have a standard to certify an organic farm. There is also a disconnect between the regulators and those that produce food – both farmers and home gardeners. That means there is a lack of access to materials such as seeds, organic pest & disease controls and newer technology is not allowed to be imported. Capturing water is also a challenge but, this can be combated with good soil management.
How do you keep pests/disease out of your garden without traditional pesticides?
Due to limited access to newer pest control technology, I use physical methods such as removing pests by hand and sticky traps. Good farm culture such as removing all plant material from the farm that is pulled up or harvested is also important. I also use the few organic sprays that are readily available here such as All Seasons and DiPe. I also make fertilisers, repellents and compost to help increase the immune system of the plants in my garden. Finally, I use biological controls, there are some insects are predators and eat the pests that attack the crops.
What are the easiest ways for people to get into sustainable and organic gardening?
The best way to start is to get composting. Build your soil biodiversity and fertility. Get all the usage from the food by composting or capturing the methane gas it produces as it breaks down and using it for cooking or powering a generator.
If you haven’t already: start a small garden, invest an hour or two in it a day. If you have space, you could even get two hens for eggs. They can be free range but I recommend keeping them in a cage or run and feeding them weeds and scraps out of the kitchen. These are little things that will help reduce the cost of groceries, while increasing the quality of food you have on your table.
Is there anything else you want people to know about sustainable and/or organic gardening or farming?
Sustainable farming is more of a lifestyle change. It involves changing habits: separating trash, composting, reusing, repurposing and consciously trying to reduce the amount of trash sent to incinerated. These are practices that we need to adapt to ensure future generations can live comfortably and avoid the side effects of extreme climates that are predicted to happen in the near future.
Sustainable practices instituted island-wide would also help to reduce the cost of living, offsetting the cost of fuel to produce energy, the need for importation of fertilisers, seeds etc. This would aid in the circulation of money within the island and create more wealth and could also reduce the taxes.
Bermuda is in dire circumstances; it stems from continuously repeating the same mistakes. We need to tackle our problems from the root. Not covering them up with bandages. It falls on us the people of Bermuda to start these changes for the future generations. Food security, quality, reducing the cost of living and producing our own energy.
For interested gardeners, Malachi will be hosting gardening classes in the near future. To find out more about his work, be sure to follow him at @justafarm3r on Instagram or check out his website at www.farmer.bm.