I have been gardening and small to mid-scale farming for most of my life. I was born in Homer Alaska on a homestead and have lived in Southern, Central and Northern California, in Berlin Germany, in Basel Switzerland and in Flanders New Jersey and have traveled all over the world for work and pleasure. I have seen many, many different types of conventional and organic farming practices, but nothing has impressed me and lured me down a path as much as Bio-intensive Organic Farming. These practices, while not entirely new, are gaining popularity on many mid-scale farms today because they are showing not just a reduced footprint on the environment, but actually showing true reversal, to a large degree, of the damage that modern agriculture has inflicted on the planet.
At Greater Greens we work to bring our soil to life by combining these ancient farming practices that mimic mother nature’s natural cycles, with modern techniques that allow for optimal growth, pest prevention and high yields. We eliminate tilling because it reduces soil organic matter and disrupts critical microorganisms that live on and below the soil. This allows us to reduce water usage by more than 20,000 gallons of water per acre (1). This also allows us to avoid releasing Elemental Carbon and Nitrogen into the atmosphere as greenhouse gasses by fixing it into the soil where it belongs while also reducing soil erosion by more than 700%, further eliminating our reliance on synthetic fertilizers (2).
Because of these results, bio-intensive farming practices have gained so much global attention in the past 5 years that the UN focused a major meta-study on agricultural practices and their effect on climate change. These studies show that the largest lever to reverse the effects of climate change, at the lowest cost, is agriculture (3), with >35% of greenhouse gasses attributed to modern day agricultural practices (4). Studies have further shown that soil constitutes the largest terrestrial organic Carbon pool, which is three times the amount of CO2 currently in the atmosphere and 240 times current annual fossil fuel emissions (5). This shows that soil health practices, like Bio-intensive farming, are key to getting our emissions in check and are literally right in our hands as farmers. With these facts now available, more than 80% of countries have committed, in the 2015 Paris Agreement, to focus on agricultural mitigations to achieve the collective emissions reduction goals.
Despite these compelling studies and facts, in the US <1% of agricultural land is farmed organically, and only a fraction of that is using bio-intensive farming practices. So, we must continue to educate farmers and consumer alike, to see the values of these farming practices. And with the improved rapid crop rotation processes shown by several leaders in the field like Never Sink Farms and Singing Frogs Farms we can see that the high yields and revenues of these farms far surpass conventional farms. These models are now proving the myths wrong, and showing that organic bio-intensive is viable to feed the world while also being economically profitable.
I encourage you learn where your food comes from, learn how it is produced and ensure it is done in a way that is sustainable for our planet. And as you learn, that you share this and help educate others so we can all do our part to reverse our footprint as much as possible.
1. Licht Mark, “Less Tillage for More Water in 2013.” Iowa State University Extension, 2012
2. M.J. Shipitalo & W.M. Edwards “Runoff and Erosion Control with Conservation Tillage and Reduced-Input Practices on Cropped Watersheds.” Soil & Tillage Research, 46. 1998 1-12, USDA
3. Cotrufo MF, Wallenstein M, Boot CM, Denef K, Paul EA (2013) The Microbial Efficiency‐Matrix Stabilization (MEMS) framework integrates plant litter decomposition with soil organic matter stabilization: do labile plant inputs form stable soil organic matter? Global Change Biology, 19, 988–995.
4. Cafaro P (2013) Avoiding Catastrophic Climate Change: Why Technological Innovation is Necessary but not Sufficient. Ethics and Emerging Technologies, pp. 424–438. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.
5. Paustian K, Lehmann J, Ogle S, Reay D, Robertson GP, Smith P (2016) Climate‐smart soils. Nature, 532, 49–57.