By: Jerry Tenenberg
Founder of High Quality Organics
At High Quality Organics, we started with just an idea: 100% Organic Ingredients. The secret of our success… persistence. A great historical example of persistence exists in Egypt.
The Greek word apothēkē, which means barn or storehouse and is the predecessor of the word apothecary, comes from an ancient name for an area of the Nile River Valley in upper Egypt. In ancient times this region is where agricultural products were stored and warehoused, including an abundance of locally farmed herbs and botanicals. These were then transported and traded in the major cities of the day, such as Jerusalem. The Nile Valley was quite a happening place!
Ancient Egyptians farmed the fine silt on the banks of the Nile River. Annual rains in Ethiopia to the south would cause flooding all along the Nile as it flowed north for 600 miles. This yearly cycle, replenished the perfect organic growing medium needed to grow crops.
In 1843 it was decided to build diversion dams across the Nile near Cairo, to regulate navigation of the river. By 1970, the Aswan High Dam, over 500 miles south of Cairo, was finished and completely eliminated the flooding cycle. From then on, farmers would depend on man-made canals carrying water depleted of minerals and nutrients for crop irrigation. Fertilization would have to come from outside sources and usually synthetic.
When I first went to Egypt many years ago, I was disheartened to find generally very poor agricultural processes. But there was a light; a few farmers either adopted natural methods handed down from previous generations or were willing to adopt methods I had learned that I could share with them.
I’ve included some fun photographs from those early days. You can see soil that has been piled between the palms that farmers would layer with the manure from their livestock. This crude "compost" was carried by any means (in this case by donkey) and placed strategically by number of piles per row. You can see we had some good results with the chamomile and mint in the picture of the piles. My rule of thumb grew to become: one cow would supply enough manure to mix with soil to replenish one acre of land per year.
Now let’s fast-forward five years or so. The cow herd got a little bigger and the composting operation was of size to really change the Egyptian landscape and provide the volume of product we had promised to our customers! Our relationship with the farmers and the organic methods employed then and now are so important to mitigate the challenges faced in Egypt. And the story is similar in many places around the world. The steady effort to find opportunity and solutions to evolve organic agriculture will increase food production and quality of life from farm to table.
- Jerry's Organic Farm