Why soil matters to me.
I've had some feedback from a client that thought from my articles that I am a bit too way out when it comes to farming.
He was right.
Compared to mainstream farmers I am keenly interested in new ways of doing things that align with my values, which are to:
- Look after the soil. Every teaspoon of it. I believe that soil is extremely precious, and my goal is to leave the soil in my possession in much better state than when I got it.
- Improve the conditions for the soil microbes as a teaspoon of soil contains more than 8 billion microbes. Soil microbes begin every life cycle on earth. We neglect them at our peril. Just because we can't see them ... is no reason to ignore them. They are bigger in weight than all of humanity put together above the soil.
- Encourage the planting of native plants and trees to feed the birds. No one would dream of starving their cat, dog, goldfish or any animal under their care. Native birds are under our care so I want to give them as much food as I can grow on my half acre without them needing to eat my apples or plums.
- Encourage the planting of native trees for their aesthetic appeal. I am addicted to the variation of green that we get from New Zealand native vegetation.
- Limit the use of pesticides, herbicides and artificial fertilizers on both my land and in our country as a whole. Why? Because these things damage the environment for soil microbes. If these artificial chemicals can be shown to be good for the soil microbes, then I am for them.
- Limit the use of pesticides, herbicides and artificial fertilizers as they have an unknown impact on human health and anything that can have an adverse impact on other people's health is bad. In the same way that we can't see soil microbes, we can't see the residual chemicals we put on our plants and on our land. Unless it is good for plants and the soil, I don't want to use it and I don't want my food polluted by residual artificial additives.
- Keep the production of food as natural as possible as I believe that helps in keeping humans as healthy as possible.
Where does regenerative farming come in?
I have only known about regenerative farming for a year or so, but it strikes a big chime with me. It fits with my values. Makes it very easy and quick for me to latch onto.
But I am not a farmer earning my living off the land, so I am not walking the talk in that sense.
I practice regenerative farming as much as I can on my half acre by making sure the soil is covered at all times with plants or mulch (compost, 'forest floor', other woody plants like you see lying in a forest, and straw or lucerne), by investigating and incorporating anything that is helpful to soil microbes (e.g. biochar, vermacast (check out MyNoke here), seaweed, fish byproducts, animal manure, wood ash, rock dust and compost).
What I want to say to traditional farmers, just keep an open mind and look for ways of doing things better. Regenerative farming might be a dead end for you, but unless you keep asking great questions you won't find any great answers.
When I heard there was a regenerative soil conference at Lincoln University coming up on 7 and 8 March 2020 wild horses couldn't keep me away. I am off.
If you want to see what the future of farming could look like check out The Regenerative Soil Solution Conference held by ODPG, see here.
ODPG stands for Organic Dairy & Pastoral Group. They describe themselves as a network of organic, regenerative and biological producers in the dairy, sheep, beef and general pastoral industries.
I'll let you know how I get on.
Keep asking great questions ...