Organic? No, but almost
Martin Dabilly says that raspberries he grows at his family-run Meiming Raspberry Farm in Songming county are safe to eat without washing, but he refuses to promote his fruits as organic.
“I don’t believe in organic (agriculture),” he told China Daily, switching from fluent Mandarin to not-so-fluent English. “I think it’s expensive, useless. I believe in sustainable agriculture. I know fertilizer. Fertilizer is nothing bad.”
He can calculate how much fertilizer a raspberry plant needs, and says he can put the right amount of fertilizer into the soil and make the plant healthy. What’s wrong with the fruit growth in China is that farmers tend to apply too much fertilizer and pesticide to their fruits and to the soil, he said.
“They are losing money on fertilizer. They are killing the soil — because soil will become very acidic. And it’s very bad for the quality of fruits,” he said. “That’s why the pH of soil in Dujiangyan was four and here in my farm it’s six.”
At Meiming, use of pesticide is strictly forbidden during harvest time. “But raspberries attract a lot of pests. We need to control them (with pesticides),” he said. “I don’t want to lie to my customers. Many companies say they are organic. I know it’s not true.”
In Dujiangyan, pollination of kiwis is made by hand, he said. At Meiming, it’s done naturally by bees, with 20 hives installed inside the greenhouses. “If you want to know whether the farm is clean in terms of pesticide, see if there are any bees,” he said. “Bees are super sensitive to pesticide. Here, if we use some bad products, it will kill bees. So we would lose our pollinators.”
He is suspicious of pesticide sold on the local market. Two years ago, he tested a brand of pesticide from a local market and sprayed it in a greenhouse. One or two days later, he found many bees had died. It turned out the product was counterfeit.
Dabilly said the farm tests its soil regularly so as to use fertilizer more efficiently. Sometimes they will send soil samples for tests in France.
Because of a minimum use of pesticide and fertilizer, a worm might appear in a box of Meiming’s raspberries. Once in Chengdu, Dabilly said, a customer found a worm in raspberries in a supermarket.
“The customer was angry, the supermarket was angry, and my agent was angry,” he said.
“I told them that it actually meant our berries were good and kind of organic.”