The two most referred to schools of thought that guide our farm practices are biodynamic & Permaculture.
Biodynamic agriculture first came about after WW1 in Europe by a gentleman named Rudolph Steiner, and was meant to identify the ties between plant, animal and the climate that they exist in. Biodynamic agriculture emphasizes the use of composts and animal manures to build organic matter in soils and to foster resilience of plants without the use of fertilizers, pesticides or fungicides. What Biodynamic means for us at Tapestry is a framework within which to use animals to demonstrate their natural inclinations and instincts; i.e. for pigs to root and for chickens to scratch, and to harness these behaviours for our benefit. More information about biodynamic methodologies can be found here: http://www.demeter-usa.org/about-demeter/
Permaculture is a school of thought started in the late 70’s by Australian researchers Bill Mollison & David Holmgren & focuses on the study and re-creation of natural systems by utilizing natural patterns. Permaculture principals can be applied to community design, agriculture, architecture and civil engineering amongst other things. More information on the pricincipals and practices associated with Permaculture can be found here: https://permacultureprinciples.com/
The bottom line that we follow from both biodynamic and permacultural practices is a focus of regenerative agriculture that adds to the soil rather than takes away. Our management strategy as we grow and learn more about ourselves and our land will be governed by these principles:
- Are we contributing to the overall health and vigor of our soils, or are we depleting them?
- Are we utilizing our animal’s natural behaviors’ in a mutually beneficial way, or are we resisting them & thereby making more work for ourselves?
- Are we developing closed-loop self-reliant systems, including renewable energies and small business networks that foster resilient economies, or are we depending too much on outside sources?
For us, these questions have lead us towards practices that include beneficial insects, physical barriers such as cloth to deter pests, and selecting plant varietals appropriate for our northern climate.
Rather than relying on a chemically produced fertilizer we use blood and bone meal, animal manures and compost. And practice crop rotation to balance the needs of plants with the needs of the soil they grow in.
We handle the soil as gently as possible; utilizing cover crops, companion planting and heavy mulching to add organic matter to the soil, reduce our need for irrigation, pesticides or expensive soil amendments and to avoid soil compaction and surface water runoff.
Rather than use herbicides we strive to leave the soil layer in place so the weed seed bank naturally present in the soil stays dormant. When it is necessary to turn the soil, we practice a stale seed bed method that encourages the seeds near the surface to sprout and then die off under heavy tarps before transplanting crops.