Or­ganic? No, but al­most

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.”

CHEN LIANG / CHINA DAILY

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