Why local, organic food is the best choice for everyone

After Gloria Camilleri's dad passed away, she found herself running the family estate. Four years on, she continues to work on their own organic farm up in Mgarr, Vincent’s Eco-farm, which carries on the late Vincent Camilleri’s vision

What is organic farming? 

Organic farming is growing food without the use of synthetic chemicals; herbicides, pesticides, or growth hormones. The priority is soil health and thus, we focus on improving our soils.  Only natural fertilisers such as compost and natural pesticides are used.  No herbicides are ever used. This ensures that no synthetic chemicals or toxins end up in the soil while contributing to soil rehabilitation. Products are safe for consumption and can be consumed by everyone including babies, breast-feeding mothers, and patients with delicate health conditions, where chemically enhanced foods can only aggravate their condition. 

Is there a big difference in the quality of fruit and vegetables when grown organically?

Many of our customers comment that our produce, being organic, is very rich in flavour and dietary fibre when compared to other produce. They also comment on the fact that they notice an improvement in their health within weeks of switching to an organic diet. I suggest trying it out and seeing the difference for yourself. 

Have you faced any challenges since you’re growing all organic?

Organic produce is rich in flavour and dietary fibre
Organic produce is rich in flavour and dietary fibre

Farming is extremely challenging in itself and organic farming even more so, as it is much more labour intensive.  However, we are constantly improving our practises, such as using straw mulch as weed prevention, crop rotation, companion planting, and using a variety of natural techniques to control pests. Every organic farmer expects some loss of the harvest (up to 30% in some cases). This reflects itself in the price of organic produce. Hearing our customers praise our produce is extremely rewarding and this encourages us to meet every challenge head on. 

The amount of food that goes to waste every year is astonishing. What causes food waste? Is buying local always the best environmental choice? 

Vincent's Eco-Farm
Vincent's Eco-Farm

Indeed - it is such a pity that so much food goes to waste. That is why organic farming is by far the best choice as it goes hand in hand with sustainability.  On an organic farm, nothing goes to waste-any vegetable scraps are fed to the chickens or else turned into compost. It is not only a pity because there are many people dying of starvation around the world, but it is also damaging to the environment. Reducing food waste means less environmental impact, less resources and energy used, not to mention the amount of money saved. 

Why would you encourage anyone to choose local and organic produce in the grocery store or farmer’s market as opposed to maybe a cheaper option? Why should they spend that little extra money if they can? 

I would like to make a distinction between local produce and local organic produce due to the fact that very little local produce is grown organically. I believe that as a consumer, one needs to be informed from where their food is sourced and what it contains.

Medical technology has grown significantly in the last decade ensuring a healthier and longer life, but one must work on the prevention of ill health by living a healthy lifestyle, which includes a diet free of synthetic chemicals. Choosing local organic produce ensures a healthy diet, besides supporting the local economy. One should keep in mind that when spending a little extra on certified organic produce, you are not only encouraging and supporting your local farmer but also investing in produce which is produced in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way. 

Nowadays, life is really fast. We are all consumed by our day-to-day life, which most of the time does not leave much room for planning. Most young people have now grown accustomed to buying fast and mass produced food, and so much money is wasted this way. I encourage anyone to take a little time off their week to sit and plan their daily meals. This will ensure that rather than spending money on unhealthy fast food, you are spending it in a sustainable and healthy way. We are now seeing more restaurants offering organic dishes as the consumer now demands uncontaminated food. 

What crops are coming up next, seasonally? 

We are now in the early summer season crop planting and production. We currently have a variety of lettuce, various types of onions, three varieties of beetroot, cabbage, two types of kale, various green herbs such as curly parsley and broad leaf parsley, green and other coloured peppers, leeks, spring onions, garlic, zucchini, peas. We will also be seeing figs, tomatoes, sweet corn, butternut, pumpkin, aubergines, bell peppers, and various types of chilly.