Many scientific studies have begun to conclude that organic gardening is beneficial for every level of life: soil, plants and animals, insects, water and air quality, as well as our own mental and physical health. Certain conventional farming practices have led to increases of pollutants in our air, water, soil, and our own bodies. More and more, people around the country are beginning to grow their own organic food or to buy locally grown organic food. Growing food at home and supporting local farms can be easy ways to help support a healthy earth and also to take better care of our own bodies.

What is organic gardening?

Organic gardening refers to growing fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, or grains using only natural means. In other words, no pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, or other poisonous chemicals or fertilizers are used in the process of growing food. Instead, the soil is tilled and prepared using gathered mulch, composted manure or food and leaf remains. Also, the plants are sprouted and grown with the aid of sun, water, minerals from compost, companion planting, and your own loving touch. Organically-raised produce is harvested and eaten with the confidence that it is grown naturally and poison-free.

Organic gardeners grow plants according to a holistic and sustainable perspective. Conventional methods, on the other hand, tend to emphasize maximum profit and growth. Consequently, these methods reduce human, soil, and plant/animal health to lower priorities.

Organic farmers consider the health and mineral content of the soil. They use techniques such as crop rotation, avoidance of poisons or pollutants, and renewal of soil nutrient content through addition of composted organic matter (leaves, papers, coffee grounds, food remains, manure, and so on). Also, an organic approach considers the welfare of animals, worms, companion plants, and humans in its decision-making.

How does modern agriculture affect life?

Many studies have concluded that conventional farming practices (e.g., heavy use of pesticides and herbicides, over-farming and erosion of mineral quality of soil, mass deforestation, and so on) have led to a vast decline in the health of soil, air, water, plants, as well as birds and animals. These practices even affect our own health and well-being. "The intensification and expansion of modern agriculture is amongst the greatest current threats to worldwide biodiversity".

Recent studies have found that massive declines in populations of bees, birds, and other wildlife have been directly linked to peoples' use of poisons on their lawns and farms. We are wiping out animals' habitats (shrubs, trees, tall grasses, ponds, etc) and replacing them with chemically-maintained "lawns."

Research studies have also concluded that ingestion of pesticides and herbicides from conventional produce can dramatically decrease nutritional contents of foods and can increase rates of cancers and other disorders.

How does this affect me?

A March 2001 study released by the Center for Disease Control revealed that accumulations of toxic chemicals in our bodies likely have deleterious health effects. The greatest challenge to this is that because cancers or diseases arise over the course of years or decades, we do not even consider them as potential causes. Because cancers and diseases are so widespread in older populations, we tend to view them as "to be expected" or "typical" of older age. In reality, however, diseases could be the body's response to living in and ingesting toxic chemicals for many years of our lives without questioning the safety or danger of these choices.

Comment: For more on the body's response to ingesting and living with toxic chemicals read Detoxify or Die by Sherry A. Rogers, M.D.

Also, as bees and birds die by the millions (from the use of plastic bags, herbicides, pesticides etc), we will have far less wildlife to enjoy and to coexist with. Try to imagine a world devoid of birds, bees, honey, and so on. The repercussions of wildlife extinctions also affect all of our world's ecosystem balances, and the effects of these extinctions can be more far-reaching and deleterious than we can imagine (not to mention the sheer loss of life).

What are the benefits of organic gardening?

The benefits span many aspects of our lives: social, physical, and mental health.

Socially, growing gardens brings people together, connects people with nature, encourages healthy social interaction, and gives people a shared sense of purpose and fulfillment. Making dinner for friends from food that you grow and harvest yourself is a very rewarding, enjoyable experience.

Physically, growing gardens gives you opportunity for being outdoors, surrounded by living things. People benefit from fresh air and water, beautiful surroundings, open space, and so on. In addition, the physical work of tilling soil and growing plants increases our blood flow, uses our muscles, and improves our health. Because it is organic, there is lessened risk of contamination from toxic chemicals.

Mentally, organic gardening offers a deep satisfaction in knowing that one is helping to turn the tides back in favor of a healthy earth, healthy plants and animals, and healthy people. Also, working outdoors with hands in soil - touching earth - brings calm, joy, and peace of mind.

What can I do?

Do you enjoy plants? You can grow a few pots of tomatoes or peppers in your living room. Peppers, for example, grow very well indoors. You can grow peace lilies, palms, or pothos plants, which will clean the air in your house.

If you enjoy gardening, grow some or all of your own food naturally right in your yard. The experience of harvesting your own fruits and vegetables and feeding friends and family can be one of the most deeply rewarding experiences of life. Choose to grow food rather than grass.

If you would rather not grow plants, then buy your food from local organic farmers or local CSA's (community supported farms). Make a non-negotiable decision to only eat organic food and use organic products.

Supporting an organic lifestyle can be as simple as eating organic herbs and foods, or planting a few pots of tomato or pepper plants. It can also be as vast as converting your entire yard and home into a space for wildlife conservation and propagation.

You can make simple sustainable choices in day-to-day life: canvas rather than plastic bags, glass rather than plastic, bulk rather than packaged, home-filtered water rather than purchased bottles, raw and natural rather than processed, organic rather than conventional, and so on. Your choices make a difference in the world.


Bayer Pesticides Cause Mass Death of Bees. Organic Consumers Association. August 25, 2008.

Cornell University's Pesticide Management Education Program

Does Organic Farming Benefit Biodiversity? Biological Conservation. Volume 122, Issue 1, March 2005

Gard, N. and M. Hooper, An Assessment of Potential Hazards of Pesticides and Environmental Contaminants, pp 294-310, in Martin, T. And D. Finch (eds), Ecology and Management of Neotropical Migratory Birds, 1995. Oxford Univ. Press.

Pimentel, D. et al, Environmental and Economic Costs of Pesticide Use, Bioscience Vol 42, No.10, November 1992.

Stinson, E. and P. Bromely, Pesticides and Wildlife: A Guide to Reducing Impacts on Animals and Their Habitat, Virginia Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries, Publication # 420-004, 1991.

When it Comes to Pesticides, Birds are Sitting Ducks Smithsonian National Zoological Park.

Williams, T., Silent Scourge, pp 28-35, Audubon, Jan-Feb 1997.

About the author

Heather Havey, M.A., is a naturalist, organic farmer, yoga/meditation teacher, & founder of Peace Through Kindness. She is the author of Reflections For Radiant Living & The Craving Book, as well as other titles. Her websites offer recipes, ecards, books/gifts, & diy/giy meant to inspire your peace, health, & joy.