Monday, March 14, 2011

Integrated Farming

The integrated farm is a good farm. A good farm is one that is sustainable. Sustainable means that the resources, the soil, animals, crops are indefinitely reproducible and maintain, or gain in, their value over time.

Here at Shamrock and Thistle Farm we struggle with how to describe ourselves.

Are we ORGANIC? I would say no. Since the government has pretty much trademarked the word and offers a certification for organic farms, by definition we are not organic according to the law. I applaud those small and large scale farmers that do the work required to acheive organic certification and the only way I could have a clear conscience in claiming that we are organic is to also acheive that certification. It would not be ethical for me to advertise that we are organic without the certification and it would certainly not be fair to those who do certify for us to market ourselves as such.

Are we SUSTAINABLE? Yes for the most part. We grow all of our own food. That is the key. The food we eat ourselves is the same as that which we sell or give to our customers. Because this farm is our source of survival AND our source of income it would be stupid for us to deplete the land, abuse our animals, and provide unsafe or low quality produce. We would be reducing our food supply as well as that of our customers.

Another description I picked up from an essay by Wendell Berry, "Old Solar Agriculture." This is a little more romantic sounding. It basically means that we are using renewable solar energy to farm as much as possible. We still have electricity and propane to power the house but in the garden we are converting solar energy to food. Our pastures and garden store solar energy in their vegetation and convert it to nutrients (food) for us and our animals. Our animals then till the garden, produce fertilizer, and help compost organic matter so that nothing is wasted. The only fossil fuels we use are those that power my chainsaws during the spring and fall and those that go into our farm truck to make deliveries to our customers. This is an imperfect calculation but we estimate we are using 4 gallons of gas a week in the truck to make deliveries and 2 gallons a year for the chainsaws to gather our firewood for heat during the winter.
The most accurate description of what we try to do on our farm is this. We are a holistic farm. Now, calm down Tea Partiers - that does not mean we shave our heads, wear orange robes, and chant mantras whilst planting. Because words have true meanings I will resort to a rarely used reference book called a dictionary to explain "Holistic". The dictionary says holistic or holism is:

Emphasizing the importance of the whole and the interdependence of its parts

In the following series I will be describing in detail what an integrated farm looks like, how it operates, and what benefits it holds to mankind.

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