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Archive | Permaculture

Stories, photos and podcasts about permaculture techniques, including information about healthy pollination tactics. Permaculture is defined as the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.

Principles of Permanent Agriculture

When we look at the great soils of the world, we can see these principles of permanent agriculture in action. The prairies have the grasses and clovers that together structure the soil and incorporate nitrogen. The grass roots finely divide the soil particles and then decay after the tops are grazed. The mobs of bison on small acreages of the Great Plains, for short periods of time ate a small percentage of the growth and trampled the major­ity of the carbon back into the soil. The heavy animal impact included manure, urine and tillage from their split hooves. It is fascinating to watch a bovine’s hoof split apart and literally plow the soil sideways, as the weight of the animal comes down on it.

Corn growing at Long Hungry Creek Farm in Tennessee. Photo by Kristina Rossi

Afterward, the land rested with no animals, and grew back up better than ever. This cycle produced phenom­enal soil humus.

This same thing happened in Northern Europe with wolves chasing reindeer and in the African savan­na, with lions chasing water buffalo. Everywhere you find great soils in nature, you’ll find mobs of grazing herbivores moved by predators. This is how humans will reverse climate change — by sequestering carbon with the use of grass, legumes and large herds of herbivores on small acreages for short periods of time. Continue Reading →

Tractor Time Episode 22: On Assignment, the Tropical Agriculture Conference in Belize

Hosted by Ryan Slabaugh

This episode is a bit unique from the others, which are usually done in the comfort of my office back in Greeley, Colorado. For most recordings, it’s me, a microphone, an interview guest and my dog snoring in the corner. If you need the full picture, I even prop a sign up in my windowed door that says, “On Air.” But that’s really just for me – it makes me feel official.

But so does this scene where I am today. Today, we are broadcasting from Belize, specifically, Belmopan, Belize, at the inaugural Tropical Agriculture Conference. We first met one of the organizers, Beth Roberson, a Belizean farmer, in Columbus, Ohio, last year during our annual conference. Beth left inspired to start her own educational conference down here, picked our brains a bit, and recruited some of our speakers and former Tractor Time guests like regenerative poultry specialist Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin and Regeneration International’s André Leu, among others.

Continue Reading →

Daniela Ibarra-Howell on Bringing Eco-Farmers Together

Savory Institute Co-Founder, CEO Daniela Ibarra-Howell Shares Insights into How the Organization is Bringing Like-Minded Farmers and Ranchers Together

Daniela Ibarra-Howell

Daniela Ibarra-Howell

It is not often that someone who is not a billionaire decides to take decisive steps toward solving a global problem. It is even less common for anyone, even and perhaps especially billionaires, to have ideas about how to do it that not only work but point the way for others of like mind. Daniela Ibarra-Howell is one of these rare people. She is a co-founder and the current CEO of the Savory Institute, the nonprofit wing of the Savory operation based in Boulder, Colorado, (her husband, Jim, heads the for-profit wing). Beginning in 2009 and now boasting over 8 million hectares (19,768,430 acres) under holistic management in every continent except Antarctica, the Savory Institute is becoming a force to be reckoned with. As scientific evidence accumulates, adding to an enormous fund of narrative accounts, holistic management’s value becomes ever more undeniable.

As Ibarra-Howell recounts here, she declined to follow the well-worn paths offered to her as a girl in Argentina. She wanted to make a difference. Between meeting Allan Savory in 1994 and the beginning of the Institute, she and her husband devoted a number of years to consulting and running a notably successful ranch near Boulder. Ibarra-Howell will be keynoting at the Acres U.S.A. Eco-Ag Conference & Trade Show in Louisville, Kentucky, in December. Continue Reading →

Keys to Composting for Increased Soil Health, Vitality

For many years we have been composting various agricultural and forest materials at Tobacco Road Farm to provide for the soil fertility in order to raise vegetable crops without the use of pesticides. This practice has been highly successful though it has required more refinement as the environment continues to deteriorate and the soil’s need for rebalancing becomes increasingly important.

Compost with temperature gauge carbon materials

Compost with undigested carbon materials still present has now cooled to about 80°F and is ready for application.

The composting system is the mouth and stomach of the farm system and prepares the nutritive materials for absorption into the soil. How we choose the appropriate materials to feed into this system, along with an examination of mixing, piling and application of this material, is the focus of this article.

Let us set the stage of how and why this compost is utilized on our farm. At Tobacco Road Farm in Lebanon, Connecticut, we focus on intensive vegetable production with 3 acres in crops. The vegetable fields produce tremendous volumes of crops year-round. The soils are typical of the Northeast with a sandy acidic nature. The impact of pollution and climate manipulations on our soils is tremendous. The forest surrounding the farm is in a rapid state of decline. There are die-offs of trees and vastly reduced numbers of insects, bats, frogs, snakes and birds.

The variety of pest insects and diseases of vegetable crops moving into the region continues to increase and is a reflection of the environmental conditions. It has been very useful to re-examine compost and its utilization through a holistic eye that can see these changes and adjust the compost system accordingly. This is similar to the way humans have had to adjust their diets in this modern age of illness. Continue Reading →

Appreciating Wild Mushrooms

Hunting and eating edible wild mushrooms is an extremely popular culture in some countries, but most people in the United States associate them with stomach issues, trips to the hospital and even death. Clearly, there is a need for education on the subject, and with that education, a new world of potential food delicacies will be opened. Example after example in life tells us that knowledge is power, and certainly, knowledge of edible wild mushrooms is no exception.

A beautiful reishi mushroom — notice the swirls on the cap, an identifying feature.

If your foraging experience of mushrooms consists of trespassing across grain-fed cow pastures on moonlight nights, then might I suggest looking for the edible ones in broad daylight; it’s much safer. And speaking of the hallucinogenic Psilocybins; one of the deadliest mushrooms in North America called the Deadly Galerina (Galerina spp.) resembles them, and there have been numerous unsuspecting partakers of that forbidden mushroom who accidentaly ate the deadly mushroom instead.

Spore prints are one of numerous ways to investigate the identity of a mushroom, and you can’t identify the color if you can’t see it. You simply place a fresh mature mushroom cap, gills down, on a piece of paper for a day or two allowing it to release its spores. Continue Reading →

Branching Out: Farmers Embrace Alternative Orcharding

The time is ripe to take a new look at orcharding design and function. Around the country, from Michigan’s cherry trees to New York State’s apple and peach crops, orchards have been hit with crop losses after late frosts during the past few seasons. Disease pressures, such as those impacting the Florida citrus industry, are another major concern. In circumstances such as these, growers who aren’t diversi­fied may have lost their primary in­come for the year.

Seaberry (sea-buckthorn) is one of many crops grown at Hilltop Community Farm.

The sustainability of a system de­pendent upon one cash crop, along with the lack of diversity inherent in such systems, combined with increas­ing concerns about the amount of chemicals used in conventional fruit and nut production, has led a new wave of orchardists to explore alterna­tive methods of growing fruit.

Forward-thinking growers are uti­lizing a variety of means to reinvent the way an orchard grows. They are cultivating rare, unusual or native fruits, growing in a scale-appropriate manner and addressing orchard di­versity through polyculture and mim­icking natural ecosystems. Continue Reading →