EVERYTHING ORGANIC, OR WHAT?

Organic Oat Base has been available at Blue Farm since July. We got to the bottom of the "organic factor" and spoke exclusively with an organic farmer about exactly that: What does organic quality mean? What are the advantages of "organic" and what are the disadvantages? We also asked ourselves who benefits most from organic quality and how else we can use organic oats (besides our Oat Base). 

Our Blue Farmer, Leon, spoke to Mogli BiIlesberger from the Billesberger organic farm around Munich. Mogli has been running his father's farm since 2007 and has converted it completely to organic. 

For many farmers, like Mogli, organic quality in agriculture is often linked to a deep inner conviction. However, this quality has its price, so that many consumers often still resort to non-organic products. Moreover, "organic vs. traditional farming" is not synonymous with "good vs. bad". For as good and resource-saving as organic farming is, it requires considerably more land to produce a similar yield. Similarly, it should be emphasised that conventional agriculture can use pesticides and fertilisers in a resource-conserving way. So it is always worthwhile to take a differentiated look at the discussion about "organic vs. non-organic" and to question it. If you would like more insights on this topic, you can read the full interview with Mogli here.

Leon: Since July, our Oat Base has also been available as an organic version. Now we are curious to know which organic products you grow here on the organic farm?

Mogli: When I took over my father's farm, there was really only one option: to grow everything organically. Starting with five different fruits, the farm has become even more diverse in recent years and I have specialised in biodiversity, so to speak. And now I have between 12 and 14 different crops on my large arable fields. From ancient grains like emmer, einkorn, spelt and oats to lentils, black beans, soybeans and golden millet - just to name a few. I have seven different types of potatoes on just under three hectares and about 100 different types of vegetables on one and a half hectares. In addition to 45 ewes and mountain sheep, which are there for landscape maintenance, we also have 900 chickens in three chicken mobiles, two horses, two cats and a dog - Balu. I have been the only organic farmer here in the village for almost 12 years, besides another farmer who converted to organic last year.

Organic farmer Mogli
Organic farmer Mogli in front of his farm

Leon: Then let's get straight to the question of what drove you to grow only exclusively organic? What was your background?

Mowgli: Well, I have to backtrack for a moment. What was very important was the ecological imprint from both sides of my parents. I don't just mean eating organic food or anything like that. My father has always been very ecologically minded. He still plants trees every year at the age of 81. And it was always important to my mother that we had lunch together. Even back then, she cooked lots of vegetables for us and took us to the health food store when we were children. At the time, I think that was the least cool thing there was.

And so I think that came from an early age, that our parents simply showed us that healthy food is important. And people often ask me why I only eat organic food. I can't really say exactly. I started here and said to myself from the beginning: Either I do organic or I don't do it at all! Then an organic advisor from Naturland came to the farm. He advised me and gave me a lot of support and encouragement in what I wanted to do. And then I thought to myself: I'm going to try this out now! I didn't want to have anything to do with all this conventional farming - with sprays and so on - because I think there has to be another way. And so the short answer is: I am an organic farmer out of conviction.

Leon: What is the difference between organic and conventional farming, especially in production? I once heard that you get less yield per area in organic farming. Are there any other differences that you do differently in production?

Mogli: First of all, of course, there are many ways to differentiate between EU, organic, association, Demeter and so on and so forth. We won't go that far now: classically, there is a division into plant cultivation and animal husbandry. In animal husbandry, organically kept animals have more space, are fed organically produced fodder and, weather permitting, have to be let out into nature. This is not the case with conventional animal husbandry.

In concrete terms, organic crop production means that no synthetically produced fertilisers, sprays such as pesticides, fungicides and the like may be used. However, this is already partly the case in traditional agriculture. This means that fertilisers and pesticides are used as little as possible and only in a targeted manner. Just as you already ensure with your Oat Base Natur. In addition, with organic farming you have to use organic seeds and you have completely different breeds. 

If your oats are healthy, you want them to grow as tall as possible. And why do we want tall plants? Because most cereals are attacked by fungi that are soil-borne. This means that the fungus comes from the soil via the wind, goes into the ear and infects it. So the longer my organic grain is, the less it can be attacked by fungi. However: a tall oat does not hold as much yield as for example a very low grown and sprayed one. This is because the higher the plant, the less stable it is. If the yield is high, the plant can fall over when it rains a lot, for example, and the combine doesn't catch it as well. We then don't have any sprays we can give against it. That's why we try not to get fungi as a preventive measure. And of course these masses of yield, some of which are harvested in non-organic cultivation, an organic plant could not really hold without falling over when there is a storm or heavy rain. And that brings us to a crucial point: with organic farming, you get half the yield and double the price. Of course, there are many other factors involved, and that only counts for Europe.

Leon: What impact does organic farming have on your own biodiversity on the farm and on the environment around it? And what exactly is biodiversity? It's a term that is often used, but only a few people know it.

Mowgli: Biodiversity is the variety in nature. You could say that as a definition. But organic farming does not mean that you automatically promote biodiversity. How do you promote it? By planting hedges, riparian strips, which are now obligatory after the referendum, flowering areas, flowering strips and any kind of niche that promotes the food chain. What we try to do as organic farmers is to promote beneficial organisms. In other words, animals and insects that eat pests. If we now cultivate a flowering meadow or a flowering strip in a field, then there are many insects that, for example, also feed birds, but also insects that are beneficial in that they eat pests that could attack our crops. But also the hedge or the flower strip breaks the wind. You have less erosion and shelter for other beneficial insects and you create habitat. Putting all this in place costs money and a lot of maintenance at first. But in the long run, there is nothing better for biodiversity, for the diversity in our nature. And if we want to continue to live sustainably from our soil, such measures are very important. And this is much easier to achieve in organic farming than in the conventional way.

Leon: And what our customers are of course very interested in, what difference does it make for them personally to buy organic products - compared to conventional products? Are there perhaps certain ingredients that are more abundant in organically grown vegetables or grains?

Mowgli: It makes a difference for the body in that organic products are less or not at all contaminated with any pesticides and of course not with industrially produced fertilisers. In addition, there are many other factors that are of course good. We have already mentioned advantages for the environment, but there are also advantages for your own wallet. First of all, we often think that organic is expensive, but if you take a closer look, there are additional costs in conventional agriculture. Every taxpayer in Germany pays more taxes because we farm conventionally in Germany. The simplest example: because of conventional farming and because of the sprays that are used and end up in the stream, the waste water has to be cleaned. The public pays for all that. This is called "the hidden cost of conventional agriculture". There are many more such factors and side effects that would not arise if an entire country were to practise organic agriculture.

Leon: And one final question for you. You grow your own port here on the organic farm. I'm interested in what you make with your home-grown oats and what your go-to product is? Oat flakes for muesli or do you make your own bread with them?

Mogli: I grew naked oats this year and last year. This is a special old oat variety that falls right out of the husks when threshed. Then you have the whole grain. It's super high quality in terms of amino acids and of course the best thing is to eat the oats raw. We also make flakes from it. However, you mustn't make them in stock. Normal oat flakes are preserved. If you make fresh oat flakes, they can quickly go rancid because the oats are very fatty. That means you only make as much as you need. My girlfriend, my child and I make breakfast, for example, preferably raw of course, with plant milk and fresh fruit. A friend of mine who runs a starred vegetarian restaurant made a really great risotto with oats. I've eaten it for the first time now and it tastes super good and has a really great smoothness in the mouth. And that's the beauty: there are no limits to your imagination with oats.

Leon: An oat risotto recipe! We will definitely tackle that! Mogli, thank you so much for the interview and your insight into the organic farm.

Oat plant
Oat plants

We draw up the eco-balance: 

Fortunately, our customers don't have to decide and there is no difference in taste to our Oat Base Natur. With the development of the organic Oat Base, it is our concern to follow the ever-increasing demand for organic products. We are happy about this, because it is now available in our shop, see here.

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