14 September 2020

The Organic Lifestyle: Tracing Its Origins

In modern times, food consumption has been identified as a key factor in a more sustainable form of consumption process for our society.

In some western countries, this principle implies a transition towards less animal-based proteins and, in general, a more carefully produced food. 

However, this transition to an organic lifestyle will not be easy because the relationship between food producers and consumers is bounded by many cultural, economic, and geographical constraints.

In this article, let us look at how the organic lifestyle came to become a modern-day $72 billion global industry.


Natural Eating in 19th Century Germany


The process of natural eating traces its roots back in the 19th century in Modern Germany. Germans during that time invested in having a “natural diet.”

They pioneered the early organic practices associated with agriculture and production. Historians have considered the “natural food movement” as marginal to German cultural history. 

The idea came about due to Germany’s terrible experience with hunger, which happened twice in the 20th century. This happened in the first and second world wars.

During these times, the German state opted for natural eating practices and encouraged their countrymen to eat more efficiently in order for the supply to be sustainable. 

This movement was further strengthened during the epidemiological transition in the 1900s, from mere infectious diseases to chronic diseases like smallpox, cholera, cancers, and heart disorders.

State and non-state German personalities pushed that eating more in an organic way can be used as a strategy to improve public health. 

Natural eating has bit of shade in history, though, since this process became a standard on how Nazi leaders manage their diet. Most of them strictly eat organic food, while some are vegetarian.  Due to this Nazi practice, it has become politically promiscuous


Early Principles in “Organic Eating”


In the 1860s, a man named Eduard Baltzer, a German Liberal invented this principle on natural eating.

While working as a minister in a town called Nordhausen, he worked with the urban poor and saw that people were eating too much meat and sugar. Families would spend more than 50% of their income on food with barely enough budget left for housing. 

This manner of eating is causing different kinds of social distress, and he saw this process as unnatural. This was when he advocated for eating naturally.

Although the advocacy was based on economic reasons, his advocacy leaned more on people eating in a more frugal way: eating mainly fruits and vegetables.


Evolution of the Organic Lifestyle, Post World War Two


There were two Germanys by the end of the second world war. In communist East Germany, the Life Reform Movement disappeared since private movements weren’t allowed.

The people involved managed to incorporate into the state medical bureaucracy and managed to introduce the practice as the “health diet” of East Germany. The “organic” advocacy disappeared but the practices remained as a part of the state’s nutritional prescription. 

Old Nazis in West Germany, who were part of the Life Reform Movement, regrouped in the 1950s, inculcating and developing their ideas about eating and producing naturally until the environmental movement emerged in the 70s.

This changed the political orientation of eating once again. The environmental movement reintroduced old practices until it became mainstream. To date, Germany has the second-largest market in the world in terms of organics, next to the United States of America. 


The Organic Lifestyle and Social Status


From the late 19th to the 20th century, people who adapted to this lifestyle tend to be laypeople. This is mainly due to economic reasons; eating organic food tends to be cheaper back then, and processed produce was a luxury. 

In the 1920s and afterward, people with MDs and PhDs began to embrace this idea, especially in the Third Reich. Today, although it is still bounded by economic constraints, the organic lifestyle draws people from different walks of life. 


The Life Reform Movement and its Impact Today


The organic lifestyle did not only impact the way that we lived, but it also influenced the production process greatly.

Anthroposophists are one of the subgroups of this movement. They developed biodynamic agriculture, which is one of the premier agricultural systems today.

It was pioneered in the 1920s in the same area wherein Baltzer first introduced his principles of eating naturally to the general public. Back then, the area experienced an agricultural crisis, and biodynamics was introduced as one of the solutions.

The farmers who originally practiced biodynamics had a great understanding of solid fertility. These people have practices, like burying cow manure for six months to be used as fertilizers, that would develop natural ways of developing growth enhancers for their crops. 


Modern Day Organic Lifestyle and its Influence


Today, the demand for organic food does not only cover fruits and vegetables, they now extend to food grains, tea, pulses, oilseeds, and even spices. The sudden growth spurt of organic foods is due to the awareness of today’s society in regards to eating naturally. 

The organic lifestyle has also gained the support of animal activists. Organic farming promotes the humane treatment of animals.

Animals on organic farms live a healthy lifestyle and can roam around freely. They are treated much differently when compared to those who are in conventional farms. 

Organic animals also feed differently and have ample space to roam around and find food for themselves, which is abundant around organic farms. These animals are not injected with growth hormones as well and are grown naturally. 

Living an organic lifestyle also means supporting local farms. Most local farms grow their produce traditionally, and this does not involve the use of chemicals.

The cost will be greater when compared to commercial farming, but organic food nowadays does not come cheap as well.

The organic lifestyle promotes a sense of worry-free living, knowing that what you are eating is safe and naturally nutritious. It also advocates sustainability and a healthier environment free from chemicals and other pollutants.