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Farming: Why soil matters to me

07 Feb 2020

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 (eg 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.

The Conference includes two farm visits, see below:

THE REGENERATIVE SOIL SOLUTION

CONFERENCE FIELD TRIPS

SAT MARCH 7th | 12.15 - 5.30pm

We have TWO EXCITING FARMS to visit during the conference this year that will provide some great insights into the practical application of Regenerative and Organic farming.

Simon Osborne and Nicki & Roger Beattie have kindly offered to show us all around their properties and explain their practices. The two farms are very different so we will attempt to get everyone around both properties. Here is what you have to look forward to:

SIMON OSBORNE

Simon is an innovative cropping farmer near Leeston. He has a particular interest in soil, and will be speaking about Companion Cropping on Day Two of the conference. But on Day One you will get to see his farm firsthand. You can check out his operation on this short YouTube Video.

NICKI & ROGER BEATTIE

The Beatties probably run the most diverse farming operations in the country. We will be visiting their 13-hectare experimental block at Lansdowne Valley. This property hosts beef and sheep production (producing the world's lightest wool), cover crops, and Weka farming. It is the home of NZ Kelp (a Conference Sponsor) and Blue Pearls. You can find out about all their interesting enterprises at several sites:

www.rnbeattie.co.nz |   www.wyld.co.nz   |    www.nzkelp.co.nz   |   www.bluepearls.com

 

I’ll let you know how I get on.

Keep asking great questions …

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