Frequently Asked Questions

What is organic agriculture and how is it different from veganic agriculture?

While both veganic and organic agriculture are distinct from conventional agriculture in that they avoid the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and GMOs, organic agriculture often relies on farmed animal inputs such as manures, bone meal, blood meal, feather meal and fish emulsion. Veganic agriculture takes organic agriculture a step further by eliminating farmed animal inputs, and instead sourcing soil fertility directly from plants– often in the form of green manures or compost. 

 

Why do some farmers decide to grow veganically?

Farmers choose to grow veganically for a multitude of reasons– typically out of concern and care for human health, nonhuman animals and the environment, or a combination of those factors. The farmed animal inputs utilized in organic agriculture often come from large scale factory farms and slaughterhouses that are detrimental to the environment and to the animals themselves. Additionally, the pathogens present in manures can pose human health concerns if they are not applied or composted properly before being used to grow produce. 

For farmers seeking to lower their environmental footprint, reduce suffering to animals, reduce reliance on off-farm inputs, and reduce risk of pathogen contamination to their crops, growing veganically can offer a positive step forward in doing so and in better aligning with their ethics and the ethics of their consumers. 

 

Don’t we need manure to grow food organically?

Farmed animal manures are not needed to grow food organically. All soil fertility, even the fertility offered through manures, originates from plants. Instead of relying on domesticated farmed animals to consume plant matter to produce manures to then apply to the soil, farmers can instead use plants directly. Farmers may choose to do this through composting, using green manures (cover crops that are then cut down and turned into the soil), mulching and adding plant-based amendments.

Growing food sustainably simply relies on having a healthy, living soil, with optimal organic matter and the presence of micro and macroorganisms to break down this plant matter to make it available to your plants. Some plants, mostly within the legume family, have a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria that are able to fix atmospheric nitrogen into a form in the soil usable to your plants. Other plants, known as dynamic accumulators, such as stinging nettle and comfrey, have extensive root systems that are able to acquire specific minerals, often from deeper areas in the soil unattainable to other plants, and can help to make these minerals available to the rest of your farm or garden. Through a baseline understanding of your soil, nutrient cycling and some of the different properties and offerings of plants, you can ensure you are meeting your farm or garden’s needs and can do so solely with plants and soil life– without requiring farmed animal inputs.

 

What’s wrong with using animal fertilizers?

Utilizing farmed animal inputs presents environmental sustainability, ethical and health concerns. This remains true whether you are importing animal fertilizers or producing them onsite.

In striving for a more sustainable and just society where both humans and nonhuman animals are treated with respect and valued as autonomous individuals, we need to be able to ensure and demonstrate that such a future is possible. This means that we need to be developing and practicing farming methods that don’t rely on the exploitation of other beings and that we can operate without domesticated farmed animals altogether.

Farming without farmed animal inputs is not only helping us to build a new paradigm towards a more just and sustainable future, but it also comes with many benefits. These include using less space and leaving more for wilderness and wildlife, using less water and resources, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, eliminating pathogen concerns and building soil organic matter.

Fertility arising from plants in the form of humus is held in your soil long-term and made available slowly over time as needed. Manures on the other hand contain nutrients that are very readily and rapidly available to your plants—often on a much greater and quicker basis than plants may need. This can result in excess nutrients that are not taken up by your plants and end up leaching into and contaminating groundwater. Utilizing nitrogen fixers rather than manures to bring nitrogen into your soil is a more sustainable and controlled means of doing so as nitrogen fixers will regulate their nitrogen fixation according to need—if there is ample nitrogen in the soil they won’t expend much energy fixing more, they will use what is available, and if it is lacking they will then increase their nitrogen fixation processes.

 

Where can I buy veganic food?

The best way to buy veganic food is to support a local veganic farmer if you can. Check out this map of veganic farms throughout North America to see if there is a veganic farm near you. Some veganic products are now being offered at grocery stores too so be on the lookout for products that are labeled as such, however these products are not very common or widespread yet. Another great option if you have the land to do so and can’t find a veganic farmer near you is to grow your own veganic food! There are a bunch of educational resources available on veganic farming and gardening.