Organic Farming

“The Earth is what we all have in common.”

Wendell Berry

“The Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s foremost natural wonders, is facing a massive ecological crisis. Conventional farming in coastal areas near the Reef is slowly killing it. Nearly one-third of the reef is now exposed to pesticides. The reef is home to peaceful dugongs, ancient turtles and beautiful dolphins. The habitat of these animals is at risk from chemical pollution.”

Most people are unaware of the negative effects of conventional farming. According to the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) USA, “Chemically dependent agriculture harms the environment and puts human health at risk; pesticide or fertilizer laden runoff from farmlands washes into rivers, lakes, and streams, contaminating waterways, and destroying habitat.

Many pesticides are also toxic to health, and have been linked to respiratory problems, neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, cancer and reproductive problems. Every year, farm workers and people living near conventional farms suffer from poisonings and serious health effects from pesticide spraying.”

After witnessing the adverse effects of conventional farming, we at Tea So Tea were adamant to employ organic farming methods and help protect the environment.

The term organic was coined by English agriculturalist Walter James in the mid-20th century to reflect the sense that a farm is like a living organism. Organic farming works in harmony with nature rather than against it.

Our organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution. We do not use conventional methods to fertilize or control weeds. For example, rather than using chemical weed killers, we conduct more sophisticated crop rotations and spread mulch or manure to keep weeds at bay.

Here are some key differences between conventional and organic farming.

Apply chemical fertilizers to promote plant growth.

Conventional

Organic

Apply chemical fertilizers to promote plant growth. Apply natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost, to feed soil and plants.
Spray synthetic insecticides to reduce pests and disease. Spray pesticides from natural sources; use beneficial insects and birds, mating disruption or traps to reduce pests and disease.
Use synthetic herbicides to manage weeds. Use environmentally-generated plant-killing compounds; rotate crops, till, hand weed or mulch to manage weeds.

 

The benefits of organic farming

● The health risks associated with exposure to pesticides is one of the main considerations when looking at the differences between organic and conventional food. Many pesticides were registered before research linked them to cancer and other diseases. Now, health organisations consider over half of all herbicides and fungicides as potentially cancer causing.

● Organic farming increases long term soil fertility, controls pests and diseases without harming the environment and ensures that water stays clean and safe.

● Organic methods such as rotating crops to build soil fertility promotes biodiversity. The Tea So Tea forest garden is home to more than 82 different animal species including 8 mammal species, 44 different bird species, 5 reptile species and 16 insect (butterflies and dragonflies) species.

● Because organic farming eschews chemical fertilizers and pesticides, it reduces nonrenewable energy use. It takes considerable amounts of fossil fuel to create the synthetic fertilizers and pesticides used in conventional farming. What’s more, organic farming increases the amount of carbon returned to the soil, which in turn lessens the greenhouse effect and global warming.

Tea So Tea is certified organic by the Soil Association UK. Organic standards are the rules and regulations that define how an organic product must be made. These standards are laid down in European Union (EU) law. The Soil Association is one of the few associations that have chosen to set standards that are higher than the EU minimum.

Being certified organic was one of our goals in producing Tea So Tea. We believe that tea should be an agent of positive, social and environmental good and this drove us to create the world’s most ethical tea. We want our drinkers to enjoy their daily cup without a twinge on their conscience and knowing that they are helping to safeguard this planet that we call home.

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‘Nursary of few plants which are been grown naturally’

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Tea So Tea – Fair Trade

A person visiting the Thotalagala estate in the central highlands of Sri Lanka, where Tea So Tea is grown, will be greeted to the sights of a typical Ceylon tea plantation: the tea plants that resemble rolling green hills, colourful ladies picking tea leaves and a colonial style tea factory.

However, if the visitor continues to stroll around the estate they might also see an efficient garbage disposal system, rows of freshly painted houses, an English lesson being taught to a group of naughty children or a compost project which supplies the fertilizer needs of the estate.

All these projects are part of Tea So Tea’s fair trade initiatives. Tea So Tea is certified as Fair Trade. This guarantees a better deal for tea producers ensuring not only fair prices but fair wages and conditions for all those involved in the harvesting and production process.

Our Fair Trade projects are diverse and numerous.

Medical Camps

Every year we run medical camps in different project areas giving local people access to medical professionals. Patients are given comprehensive advice along with prescription medicine and referrals for further treatment.

Optical Camps

In the same manner, optical camps take place in different project areas. Local people have their eyes checked and prescription glasses are issued where they are needed. People with more serious eye problems are referred for further medical treatment.

The Fairtrade Premium

The Fairtrade Social Premium is paid directly by Fairtrade buyers to the Social Committee at the Thotalagala Estate in Sri Lanka. The Social Committee is made up of elected representatives of the estate workers and decisions about how to spend the Premium are made in consultation with everyone.

The Thotalagala Estate Manager sits on the Committee at the invitation of the workers.

Cultural Hall

In 2005, we embarked on our most ambitious fair trade project: to build a cultural hall for the community. Earlier estate workers had no access to a cultural hall and had to travel long distances for their functions.

The cultural hall, which opened in 2008, has been a huge success. Social functions, weekly meetings, clubs and classes are held in it. Educational seminars and programs are held quite regularly and religious festivities are also a common feature.

Compost and milk production

A team of estate workers conducts a project which produces the compost needed for the estate. Estate residents are encouraged to produce their own compost and contribute to this project.

All family units are given a cow. Milk from these cows is sold through a central estate milk shop giving the residents an extra income.

English lessons

The estate also provides English language lessons for young people. This opens up a whole new world to them and widens their scope as they enter adulthood.

Tea So Tea had to overcome a myriad of administrative and practical problems when implementing these projects. Nevertheless, when we look around and see the way in which each project has visibly improved the lives of our workers we feel that our efforts are fully justified.

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‘Fair trade money has been spent to create needs such as cultural halls’

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Forest Gardening

Forest Gardening – A Sustainable Alternative to Monocultures

A traveler journeying into the highlands of Sri Lanka will be met by an array of breathtaking sights: gorgeous hills, dense valleys and magnificent waterfalls. The traveler will also be greeted by lush, rolling tea estates that garland the mountain tops. These extend as far as the eye can see and provide a soothing effect to an already serene environment.

Traditional tea plantations are monocultures

Nonetheless, the beauty of the tea estates comes at a price. Tea plantations are monocultures that tolerate nothing but the tea bush. In the long run, monocultures breed a variety of environmental problems.

An ecosystem contains numerous different species, each with unique adaptations to its environment. Monocultures destroy this variability, abolishing the diversity and replacing it with a single species. All large-scale monocultures take a toll on the earth, one reason being that the growers view what were once local and natural plants and animals as weeds or pests. This upsets the ecological balance, causing outbreaks of illnesses and negative feedback cycles.

Growing so many homogenous plants in one area requires a lot of artificial chemical and mineral input. In nature, plants and animals feed each other the chemicals and minerals required to thrive. For example, leguminous plants fix nitrogen into the soil, a chemical required for growth, and animals provide fecal matter rich in minerals. Eliminating these natural cycles from a diverse ecosystem requires artificial fertilizers that are used to boost crop yields at a great expense to local biodiversity.

Moreover, monocultures are particularly susceptible to disease, which can spread far more quickly over a large area covered by a single crop than in a biodiverse ecosystem. In order to fight these “weeds”, pests and disease outbreaks, cultivators will apply even more herbicides and pesticides to keep the plants growing.

Forest Gardens – A solution to monoculture farming

Forest gardening is a plant-based food production system based on woodland ecosystems; it is a sustainable alternative to monoculture farming. Forest gardening is an ancient practice; there is evidence that people have consciously shaped the forests in which they lived for millennia. In tropical Asia, China and Africa, complex forest gardens have existed for thousands of years. Forest gardening increases local biodiversity, encourages wildlife and tackles problems of pollution and waste by promoting composting.

The benefits of forest garden systems

● Crops in forest gardens are resilient, withstanding drought and flooding through well-developed root networks

● They maintain soil fertility and can be used to reclaim soils that have been polluted

● The gardens control soil erosion and water runoff

● They provide their own nutrient requirements, through leaf fall and the planting of deep-rooting mineral accumulators

● Forest gardens are low maintenance once established

● The food they provide is nutrient rich and promote good health

● They are excellent for wildlife, creating a variety of habitats and attracting beneficial insects

● They prevent or remedy soil salinization and acidification

● The gardens utilize sunlight far more effectively than monoculture systems

● They are attractive, and provide great spaces for play, education and relaxation

Tea So Tea – Grown in a certified organic forest garden

Tea So Tea is proud to source her tea from a certified organic forest plantation in the Uva highlands of Sri Lanka. Our tea forest is rich in biodiversity, filled with colorful birds, butterflies, Sri Lankan reed frogs, cascading vines of orchids and other native flora and fauna. 82 distinct animal species including 8 mammal species, 44 different bird species, 5 reptile species and 16 insect (butterflies and dragonflies) species reside in our forest garden. The incredible diversity of plant life in the forest adds a special texture to our tea.

Tea So Tea was launched with the belief that tea should be an agent of positive, social and environmental good. Using tea grown in a forest garden was one of the steps that we took in our attempt to make the world’s most ethical tea. By being a pioneer in the concept of forest gardening in the Sri Lankan tea industry we seek to motivate other companies to follow our lead, shy away from monocultures and adopt sustainable farming practices.

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