The Principles of Holistic Farming
A holistic approach to farming acknowledges that we do live in a worldwide “living web” which is greater and more important than the sum of its parts.
If we make decisions with this living web in mind, the natural ecology of our planet is not harmed and all living organisms (including humans) thrive. Regardless of whether you own a farm or just eat food, holistic farming principles can heal our planet and keep us healthy.
Soil is King
Topsoil is the foundation of all life on our planet. The growth of plants and in turn their decomposition creates topsoil which in turn feeds more plants and ultimately feeds and grows more complex life forms. The circle of "life makes soil and soil makes life” is critical to our survival. It takes approximately 500 years of plant decomposition to produce 1 inch of topsoil in nature, so it is critical to take care of this precious resource.
The topsoil with its growing vegetation is our planet's “skin", and harming that skin creates bleeding.
In his book “Dirt”: The Erosion of Civilizations,
David R. Montgomery says that "How we treat the soil is fundamental to the health and survival of modern civilization”.
We are losing around 24 billion tons of topsoil each year primarily due to improper farming practices. If we do not stop this topsoil bleed, future generations will not survive.
Armour on the Soil
Minimal Soil Disturbance
Live vegetation on the soil at all times is the best way to protect it from eroding. If live vegetation/root structure is not feasible, then applying a mulch covering would be the next best practice.
Vegetation on the soil also keeps the earths surface cool thus minimizing water evaporation (and global temperature increases).
Soil is rarely bare in nature because when it is bare, you accelerate the topsoil loss from wind and rain. Tilling the land is causing our soil to erode hundreds of times faster than it is being produced. Tilling also greatly impacts soil microbe health, worm populations and the soils water holding capabilities.Eliminating tillage, plowing or any other soil disrupting practice preserves topsoil, reduces compaction, saves water, reduces fossil fuel consumption, protects the soil's microbial ecology and increases soil health and fertility .
Nowhere in nature do you find monocultures growing.
The practice of growing the same single plant species requires heavy pesticide, herbicide and fertilizer dependence for success. Proponents of this environment harming approach have convinced addicted farmers that this is the only way to keep crop yields high and feed our growing population. In his latest book, “Growing a Revolution” Bringing Our Soil Back to Life, David Montgomery gives several examples of farmers (he personally visited) beating crop yields of conventional farmers with the use of plant diversity in cover cropping, green manure and plant rotations. In addition to increased crop yields, this new approach has lowered overhead costs for these farmers.
In order for the circle of Life makes Soil and Soil makes Life to function efficiently, properly managed animal herds should be rotated through farmland. This practice mimics what used to occur in nature when large herds of animals and large flocks of birds roamed freely. The action of animals hoofs on the soil as well as their grazing on the plants (for a short length of time followed by a long rest), stimulates new plant growth. The animal manure and urine increases soil fertility and feeds the microbes and worms, creating additional soil fertility.
National parks have found that unless animals are allowed to impact the land, much of the healthy evolved vegetation disappears and is replaced with less evolved plant types (such as lichens) having less biomass.
Factory farms not only create inhumane conditions for animals, the waste lagoons are an environmental nightmare. Eating meat produced on these factory farms may cause more harm than benefit.
Animals raised on fresh air and pasture provides a variety of health giving and healing nutrients.
Even a fifth grader can comprehend that if a chemical (biological poison) is capable of killing a bug it can also gradually kill us. Government agencies, lobbyists and the pr industry have convinced the public that these minuscule amounts of chemicals will not hurt us, but study after study has proven that these small amounts of chemicals in food kill thousands of people every year and greatly harm our Eco-system.
Again, the above agencies are telling us that we need these chemicals to be able to feed the growing population, but there are many farmers proving them wrong.