Six years ago, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay decided to convert to organic practices. Many staff members were skeptical that they could maintain a high standard of care with a limited budget if they went this route, but they thought it was vital to try. The experiment has been an overwhelming success: Plants are far healthier, pollinators more diverse, visitors happier and costs have remained the same or decreased.
“These seem like new techniques, because as a society we have collectively forgotten them,” said William Cullina, executive director of the gardens. “I think we’re now only really understanding the scope of this great amnesia that our society underwent post-WWII – the age of big agriculture, petrochemicals and factory farms. It certainly transformed the way we eat. It’s made food more available, cheaper.
We’ve been able to treat human and plant disease. But we’ve delegated this process that used to be so visceral and real to everybody – of growing, preserving, preparing your own food – to corporations with the idea that we can trust them, that they have our best interests at heart. Unfortunately that’s not always the case.”
Similarly, in growing ornamental plants,Cullina noted that when he went to school in the 1980s and ‘90s, his professors had grown up in the chemical era when DDT and so many insecticides had solved so many problems. So that’s how he was taught to manage problems – “in stark contrast with what I had learned when I was young.” Horticulturists learned over and over again, however, that synthetic chemicals work for a short time, “but Mother Nature always has a way of getting around” those methods. — (December 2015) by JE for the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.