Many people are aware that food that is grown according to organic principles is free from exposure
to harmful herbicides and pesticides, but that is only one small aspect of organic agriculture.
A larger part of organic agriculture involves the health of the soil and the ecosystem in which crops
and livestock are raised. Organic practices recognize that a healthy, vibrant, and live soils and eco-
systems significantly benefit crops. Natural, undisturbed soil is alive with microbiotic organisms
which exist in harmony together with the native plant life and the inorganic minerals that provide
the soil's substrate.
Synthetic chemicals (such as herbicides, pesticides, and/or fast acting inorganic fertilizers)
applied in or around crops interrupt or destroy the microbiotic activity in the soil. Once the micro-
biotic activity in the soil has stopped, the soil becomes merely an anchor for plant material. In this
"conventional" method of agriculture (in use for only the past 75 years out of 10,000 years of record-
ed agriculture) plants can receive only air, water, and sunlight from its environment; everything else
must be distributed to the plant by the farmer, often from inputs transported thousands of miles to
reach the farm. Plants are commonly fed only the most basic elements of plant life and so are dependent
on the farmer to fight all of nature's challenges: pests, disease, and drought.