Matt Adams is Moving Beyond Organic. He is the director / coordinator of the Good Gardeners Association (a membership based charity) whose aim is to grow food for nutrition with the help and understanding of soil microbes.
Matt comes from a practical family. He is a mechanical engineer by trade but in 1992 after twenty years decided to study for a degree in Environmental Quality and Resource Management.
His final year work focused on environmental politics and philosophy in relation to sustainable development. He now
describes himself as a Deep Ecologist – a deep green philosophy which views the natural world as something to
respect and enhance rather than to dominate and control.
His work with the Good Gardeners is an example of Deep Ecology in action and he believes that what he is doing by
Moving Beyond Organic is offering a ‘deep green’ contribution to sustainable development. Working on a shoestring for the last seven years he’s developed a schools project – Sowing the Seed and a partnership project called Gardens for Research Experiential Education and Nutrition (GREEN).
Focused on nutrition they have produced food with more beneficial nutrients than anything grown or eaten since records began in the 1940’s. In addition to physical nutrients they are also investigating the idea of vitality. They are now looking for further support to enable them to develop and expand their current activities.
‘Dig for Victory’ was the mantra of the Second World War yet the food available to us since the war has lost around
40% of its key minerals – other nutrients have probably suffered too, we just don’t know! During this time
degenerative diseases have increased dramatically and the quality of our environment has declined rapidly as we
continue destroying the very fabric of nature that supports life on earth.
It appears that in our mad dash to increase yields and promote access to affordable food (the aim of the Common
Agricultural Policy) we have taken our eye of the ball. Food quality in the 20th Century has come to mean ‘quantity’.
Yield per acre and cosmetic appearance are major factors whilst nutritional qualities such as mineral and trace
minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants have been ignored. Sadly, as the production of organic food increases it is
becoming hijacked by this same mentality of abundant cheap food. Governed by the laws of economics, organic
certification is turning out to be just another marketing tool for big business. The organic label can not guarantee
nutritional quality – chemical free it may be but is it also packed full of essential nutrients?
The truth is, that until we insist on our food having a minimum nutritional quality (for example, food that has the same level of nutrients in it as it did 70 years ago) the nation’s health and the environment will continue to degenerate. The problem is however, that it’s not that easy to describe the qualities we want but that should not stop us from trying.
The conclusion of a £12 million PAN European study based at Newcastle University will be published over the
coming year. It found that on the whole organic food contains more anti-oxidants than conventionally grown food with between 20% and 80% more. However, it also discovered that some of the best conventional farms produced more nutritious crops than the worst organic farms. A two tier system of food quality is beginning to emerge.
Let’s think about this for a moment. If we were grading the food from this study by its nutritional qualities, rather than the systems that produce it, we would have accepted some non organic and organic produce. However, if we continue to rely on certification we would have rejected all the non organic and accepted only the organic goods.
The Good Gardeners Association believes the time has now come to Move Beyond Organic. For the past forty years
we have been promoting no dig, compost gardening and during this time we have become increasingly interested in
the microbial life of the soil and its link to nutrition. Scientists freely admit we know little of this vast world where in a handful of ‘fertile’ soil, there can be more individual life forms than humans living on this planet (currently in excess of 6 billion). But what we are learning is that when the ecology of the soil profile is in good health it is possible to get the missing nutrients back into our food.
Informed by ongoing research, designed by the GGA, in a partnership project called Gardens for Research
Experiential Education and Nutrition (GREEN) we are tracking the flow of nutrients and vitality from soil to crop in
response to its method of cultivation and well-being of the soils micro-life. What we have achieved so far is that
according to the historical records we are growing food with a higher mineral and trace mineral content than anything grown or eaten since records began.
Using a mixture of quantitative and qualitative techniques we are discovering how the mineral and trace mineral
composition of organic food can differ by as much as 100%, depending on how the soil is treated (cultivated). We are also seeing differences of up to 50% in the levels of anti-oxidants they contain. We still have lots to learn and to help decide which is best we are using a technique called round filter paper chromatography to assess the vitality of both soil and crop. The theory being that well balanced nutritious food is made with the cooperation of nature and that this will be shown as having vitality.
Moving Beyond Organic is about nutrition research and education with sustainability in mind. It’s a journey of
discovery. As we learn we want to involve children as it’s their future we are dealing with. We now need support to
make this happen.
Further details: Write to: Matt Adams, GGA, 4 Lisle Place, Wotton Under Edge, Glos, GL12 7AZ.
Tel: 01453 520322
email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web:www.goodgardeners.org.uk Please note due to limited resources
we are not able to maintain an up to date web site. New members are kept informed of latest developments, etc in our quarterly news journal Moving Beyond Organic.
C94: Soil chromatogram showing excellent vitality
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