Organic Gardening

Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.

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It has been nearly 10 years since my husband and I began selling our excess produce to restaurants and retail establishments within our community. This small leap of faith took us from backyard gardeners to full time farmers at our current farm, Tierra Garden Organics. Oftentimes, on-farm enterprises take root because there is an excess of abundance above and beyond the gardener’s own personal needs. Once the deep freeze is overflowing, the canning is done and the dehydrator is full to the brim, it is time to consider finding a market for your extra produce.  Sometimes, you may only have an excess of one or two crops. In this situation, jumping through the hoops of joining a local farmers market does not really make sense; especially if your bounty is ephemeral in nature (like an excess of beans or peas). However, many local restaurants are keen to start exploring the option of buying local and your overproduction may be the windfall that they are searching for.  Working with restaurants can be tricky for the uninitiated. If you haven’t worked in a production kitchen, you may not be familiar with the pressures or pace of a busy restaurant. Understanding these constraints will ultimately put you a leg ahead when diving into the world of farm-to-table.

Here are a few tips to building a strong relationship with your local restaurants:

Don’t Sell Shake- First and foremost, it is important that the produce you are looking to sell is high quality. This translates into a crop that has been harvested at the correct time of day, has been kept properly hydrated, is relatively blemish free, is of consistent size and color and is as fresh as possible. If you have picked too many beans and are looking for a home for the extra, the time to start calling restaurants is immediately after harvest, not a week after they have been sitting in the fridge. This can take some practice, but it is possible to ‘cruise’ your garden pre-harvest and begin to determine which crops are producing in excess. If you can see ahead of time that you are going to be harvesting way too many zucchini, start calling ahead before the zucchini are ready to be picked and begin to make connections with restaurants that may be interested in purchasing your excess.

Keep It Clean- Busy chefs do not have time to wash away your garden dirt. Properly clean your produce before delivering. Some items are best left unwashed to maintain freshness. Be sure to communicate this with the kitchen ahead of time to see if they have a preference for how the product is delivered. Salad mix and cut greens should be triple-washed and free of weeds. Root crops should be topped and power-washed to remove excess soil.  Spent blossoms should be removed from squashes and cucumbers. All items should be put into a clean container for delivery. Delivering a dirty, raw product is the easiest way to prematurely end a budding farmer-to-chef relationship.


Price Accordingly- If you aren’t a high-end boutique specialty farm, then don’t price your produce like you are. Ultimately, you are looking to form a long-term relationship with another business. Mutual respect is key. Ask for pricing guidance. Many restaurants are willing to share their price sheets from large distributors. Do your best to match or beat the pricing they are receiving until you have established a relationship where the quality of your produce is no longer in question. By contacting a restaurant, you are asking a busy business owner to go out of their way to work directly with you rather than placing a wholesale order through a major distributor. It is up to you to prove to them that the effort is worth their time.

Deliver in a Timely Manner- If you say you are going to deliver Friday morning, then deliver Friday morning. If you are going to be late then call ahead and give the kitchen a heads-up. For the sake of other local growers who are also looking to establish farm-to-table relationships, it is up to you to set a good example and prove to your client that you can be reliable. Oftentimes, restaurants have planned meals based off of your delivery promises. If you don’t deliver on time, they cannot prepare your produce as part of their menu.


Be Prompt With Invoices- Whether you like it or not, selling produce is a business transaction. The restaurant you are working with will need an invoice for their taxes. Use a numbered receipt book to track and itemize the produce you have delivered. All restaurants have a different style when it comes to payment; some pay on delivery, some pay weekly, every two weeks or monthly. Your job is to be sure you create a proper invoice so that you can be reimbursed for your products.  If your restaurant client accidentally loses your invoice in the hustle and bustle of the kitchen, it will be up to you to produce a replacement.

Working with local restaurants is one of the most rewarding parts of growing produce. It has always been exciting for me to see how the food we grow can be turned into culinary masterpieces to be enjoyed by others within our community. Local food culture starts by incubating this trust relationship between growers (both backyard and professional) and consumers.  Farm-to-Table is the keystone to building a strong, local food economy.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


A Neighborhood Permaculture Convergence

If you Google search the words "Permaculture Convergence" you will find links to dozens of permaculture convergences over the past year up to the present. They are scattered all of the country. Northeast, Florida, Colorado, Ohio. Northern California, Wisconsin, So Cal, Australia. Last year there was a North American Permaculture Convergence in Minnesota. There may be a convergence close to where you live.

A convergence is a great opportunity to connect, teach, learn, have fun. It’s all about living in a more people- and planet-friendly way. Permaculture is an important banner that helps bring people together in ways that are positive, uplifting and empowering. A permaculture convergence energizes. People are reminded and updated about all the great work being done on behalf of a more peaceful and green planet.

This post will be the first of four describing the Northwest Permaculture Convergence to be held in Eugene, Oregon August 28 to 30, 2015. The author is the coordinator of the event. The Convergence will be at our neighborhood recreation center, seven minutes away by bike.

Permaculture Convergence 

A Short History of Permaculture Convergences in the Northwest

Permaculture convergences have been happening in the Northwest for at least twenty years. Lost Valley Education Center hosted several permaculture convergences in the mid 90s. That batch of convergences moved into Eugene for a number of years around 2003 then out to a friend's farm in a filbert grove for several years, and then they stopped about 2009.

Meanwhile, another set of convergences started in Washington State. This year's convergence in Eugene is the 8th of this lineage and the first south of Portland. This current grouping of Convergences has become larger than ones previously in and around Eugene. There is now a nonprofit board that oversees the convergences from year to year. The locations alternate between Oregon and Washington State.

Each year's location is determined by who is willing to take on the coordinating task in the state that is up to bat. This year, a proposal was made for Eugene and the decision was made. Some organizing tasks require locals while other tasks can be done remotely.

Converging in a Suburban Neighborhood

For the first time, this year's convergence will be held in a suburban neighborhood. The event we are planning goes well beyond other convergences I have been to, heard about or read about. The 2015 Northwest Permaculture Convergence has been designed as a model to be adapted elsewhere. Not only for other permaculture convergences but also for neighborhood-scale eco-fares, site tours and special interest tracks embedded within a convergence. These expansive event features can be powerful outreach tools whether they use the word permaculture or not.

One outreach event is called the Expo which will be free and open to the public. The Expo will include a kid zone, presentations, vendors, ten or so nonprofits, exhibits and artifacts that show and tell of green living tools and technologies and a neighborhood fruit and veggie swap.

Site Tours and Open Houses

Also free and open to the public will be site tours. One of the main reasons for hosting the 2015 Convergence here in River Road is because there are many properties in the neighborhood and nearby with many different features of interest for living more local, green and resilient. There are other sites in Eugene we also want to visit.

Lost Valley, Aprovecho and Fern Hill Sanctuary, within 20 miles of Eugene, will all have open houses to show and tell those important places of education for the new paradigm.

A Summit to Mainstream Green Neighborhoods

Another new feature or interest is the “Green Neighborhood Summit.” The Summit is an embedded track specific to people whose focus is greening their neighborhoods. The track will include several presentations, caucus time and a site tour that will be particularly interesting to neighborhood leaders, resiliency groups and Transition Towns advocates.

Organizing these outreach parts to the Convergence all require local know-how. We have had monthly potlucks for fun and team-building, and now we are moving into creating the game plan for set up and managing the event as it happens. The excitement is building!

The next two blog posts will go into more detail describing the program, Green Summit, Expo and site tours. There is a lot of “behind the scenes” work so we will touch on that as well. The purpose of the “Convergence Blogs” is offer encouragement and some useful pointers to others so they might take on organizing a neighborhood scale event for greening the neighborhood and the community.

Overall, the Convergence is to show and tell “evidence” of a preferred future. We want to identify the bits and pieces of the kind of world many of us would like to live in that are already here. Moreover, we want to go beyond description to describe how to take these great ideas further into the mainstream.

Please be looking for the next blog. If you have attended a convergence, please share it in the comments below and describe how it was for you. If you have helped organize a convergence or something similar, please share your experience.

Visit the Convergence website for more information. You can connect with Jan Spencer on her personal website, Suburban Permaculture.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


“Bloom where you are planted.” Yes, we have heard this over and over. Once I settled into this idea it seems to work.

At 62 years of age and after a life threatening injury I quit “messing about with plants” and became serious about using what I have to the best of my ability. A 10th of an acre is enough and on some days more than I can handle. I am getting a bit stronger every day and am applying myself to blossoming right here.

This year we are growing tomatoes, all from seed, most of which we had saved from last year's favorites.

We purchased Berkeley Tie Dyed and Red Currant seeds from Territorial Seeds and acquired a Striped Roman Tomato at a plant swap. Our seed planting went better than expected and we soon had 150 plants in our living room, dining room and spare room. We sold a few, gave many away and planted 40 in our garden. As I planted I unfortunately broke the stems of a few plants. In hope I brought them in the house and put them in water glasses on a North facing window sill and added fresh, filtered water every day. Two weeks later they all had roots and went into pots for a bit longer.

Growing in the garden are: Costoluto Genovese, Roma, Striped Roman, Black Prince, Green Grape, Arkansas Traveler, Mortgage Lifter, Orange Ox Heart, Rutgers, Pink Brandy Wine, Berkeley Tie Dyed, and Red Currant. After the little seedl ings on the window sill went out we have a total of 50 plants in the ground.

We tend toward paste or sauce tomatoes because my husband Eric is a Master Food Preserver and makes and cans wonderful roasted tomato soup as well pasta sauce, ketchup, barbeque sauce, pizza sauce and salsa. Lucky me!!

Roasting Tomatoes

Do we grow anything other than tomatoes? Oh, yes. We have strawberries, black currants, blue berries, huckleberries, apple and cherry trees, hazelnut bushes, a bed of mixed salad greens and sugar pod peas, Anaheim peppers, sweet red peppers, Sun chokes, an artichoke, and a newly cleared area for Glass Gem corn, Amaranth, flax, Anasazi beans, slept and pumpkins. Late summer we will plant spinach, more salad greens and Swiss Chard to winter over.

Herbs, culinary and medicinal, are very important here. We have Rosemary, Chervil, Fennel, Dill, Thyme, Lemon Balm, Chocolate Mint, Tarragon, Savory, Bay, Yarrow, Comfrey, Chives and Lavender. Lots of Lavender. North Bank Urban Farm is Washington State's only urban lavender farm. We, at the latest count have 45 plants in the ground most of which are blooming.


We are adding a 100 square foot greenhouse which will make plant propagation and wintering over much easier and have two large compost bins for kitchen scraps, leaves, garden detritus, etc. It is wonderful compost and, I think, the real secret of our abundant harvests. That and lots of wood chip mulch.

This spring we have started selling at a local farmers market. It is slow going but we are making lots of friends and selling lavender products from our urban farm.

The first Sunday in August we will have an couple of “Open House” Sunday to share our little farm and enjoy the late summer days.

My point is, you do not have to have “land” to farm. You can farm where ever you are. Make the best use of your space, care for your soil, be thrifty with water and enjoy the garden and the fruits of your labor.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



Eleven years ago, my husband and I were in the market for a new garden shed to store and protect all of our gardening equipment. We had moved into our home a year earlier and all of this “stuff” had been left outside on the patio. Not only was it unsightly, but the wind and rain had started to cause the tools to rust and the wooden handles were starting to decay. Creatures such as spiders were making homes under the rototiller, lawn mower and chipper/shredder.

During our research, we discovered that there are many things to consider when looking for a shed. The first thing we needed to think about was how much space was needed to adequately store everything and still be easily accessible. I also wanted an area inside the shed were I could have a potting bench. We decided that a 10-foot by 10- or 12-foot shed would be just right for our stuff and the area we would be putting it in – a nice well-drained, high but level spot adjacent to our vegetable garden.

Another consideration was whether or not a permit was required. My husband inquired with our city and found out that the largest shed we could put up without a permit was 120 square feet - just right for our needs. The place we purchased our shed said that the 120 square-foot size is typical, but the permit requirements can vary from city to city. I suggest that you check with your city first to see what the permit requirements are.

Now for the shopping part: There are dozens of sheds to choose from, including those for the budget minded all the way to the money-is-no-object models. There are homemade sheds, metal sheds, plastic sheds, and wooden sheds. Styles vary from the standard flat roofs, peaks, or barns, to liveries and other western styles, just to get the list started. Wooden sheds offer various siding materials from inexpensive wafer board to T1-11 and everything in between. Sheds can be built on skids or be anchored to the ground. Optional items can include windows, turbines, skylights, different door styles and widths, porches and more.

Some sheds come in do-it-yourself kits, while others can be built on site or delivered completely built and placed on a level site.

Once the shed is built, some kind of protective material should be applied. If you choose a metal or plastic shed, this isn't usually necessary, but for wood, a good quality stain and water sealant or paint can make the shed last for years and years.

After extensive research and shopping around, we ended up choosing a barn-style shed from Shed World, happens to be in the city we live in. Although their prices were a tad higher than other places we checked out, we felt that the quality was well worth it. The shed has T1-11 siding, a roof that has overhangs all around (lets dust, bird droppings and rain fall to the ground rather than down the shed walls), shingle placement to withstand relatively high winds (common here in the High Desert of Southern California), flashing around the roof line for extra durability, heavy duty hinges and latches, and long-lasting heavy duty skids. The options we chose included two windows, plus a turbine to help keep the shed ventilated and cooler in the summer months.

We had the shed built on site because we didn't have the access for a delivery truck with the completed shed option. The company's builders arrived around 8 a.m. one morning with all of the required lumber and parts, and built the entire shed from scratch by 4 p.m. the same day.

The following weekend we moved all of our stuff inside and applied a quality stain - a barn red color for the siding with complementary white trim. To further enhance the looks, we added some low-water use plantings around the shed's perimeter.

Here we are 11 years later and the shed still looks great. Our research paid off in that we ended up with an attractive shed that is holding up very well, and is still addressing our needs.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


If you missed Part 1, click here to read the beginning of this story.

The Abdomen of the Farm Body

Above the diaphragm, the boundary encompassing all life, are the reproductive, endocrine, digestive, and gas exchanging organs of your farm body. As plants drop fruits that rot, as manure hits the ground, the powers of digestion can be found as these materials transform from living matter to food for your soil biology and ultimately your crops.

Utilizing cover crops in between cash crops not only promotes this digestive quality of your farm, through the added digestible organic matter, it also encourages more biological activity within the soil, as covers are generally sown thickly which can, in turn, stimulate a healthy soil ecology.

The reproductive organs of your farm body are represented by the fecundity of your habitat.  Where there are layers upon layers of wild and cultivated flowering plants, fruits and vegetable bodies making seed, and the bees and native pollinators fill the skies, we know that the reproductive organ of the farm is healthy.

Plants are especially good indicators of this sort of imbalance. Most all of the organs of a plant exist outside their body. They require the surface of the soil and soil biology for digestion and circulation, and their endocrine system and reproductive system are totally dependent on pollinators.

When chemicals are introduced to these systems reducing pollinators or serious nutrients or soil biology have been lost through over-tilling or compaction, plants have a much more difficult time attracting the organisms they need to carry out their reproductive processes and the fruits and vegetables will drop in production and or become diseased. The reproductive wellness of the farm relies on management that promotes both plant and animal life on every level of the ecosystem and facilitates symbiotic insect to plant relationships.


Planting By the Moon

The farm body is also tuned and harmonized by the movements of the planets.  The Sun and Moon serving as the heartbeat, giving a rhythm to the plants and animals and facilitating growth and rest. The Moon governs all water within the farm body and care should be taken when planting or harvesting crops, based on its phase.

When the Moon is full or waxing, it is a wonderful time to sow crops, as the forces of the gravity pull the water up through the plants like the tides in the ocean. When the Moon is waning, it is a great time to harvest crops for storage as their water content will be lowest and produce will not be as likely to rot.

Planting seeds by the movement of the Moon through the zodiac, by utilizing a Biodynamic Planting Calendar, also aligns the farm body with the forces that govern the fruiting, flowering, leaf and root building. Sowing radishes when the Moon is in Taurus ensures that the seed is marked with the Earthen affinities that will enhance the growth of the root over any other part of the plant. Leaves should be planted when the Moon is in a Water sign, flowers in an Air sign, fruits in a Fire sign, and roots when the Moon is housed in an Earth sign.

All of the planets of the Solar System have their energies that affect every ecosystem on the planet, washing over the Earth in rhythmic waves. The closer the planet, the more day to day the influence, the further away the planet, the more long term and subtle the effects. (See Kollerstrom & Staudenmaier, 2001, in Biological Agriculture and Horticulture for more information.)


Ecological Farming Brings the Farm Body into Balance

Managing the relationships your crops and livestock have with the dynamic working parts of your farm body is what creates production longevity and sustainability. The forces of the expanding Universe act as accelerators, if the farm organism is facing illness, the condition is likely to spread into varying levels of the ecosystem very quickly.

Ecological farming is about achieving balance through rhythm. When we look into wild spaces we see what appears to be unlimited lawlessness, but it is the nature of life that creation rests on the precipice between organization and chaos.

Adding boundaries to your farm; mulching and cover cropping, perennials and wild habitat, this is what brings about the chaotic biology enough to spur organization. The introduction of chemicals, foreign materials, and inhibition of the ecology under foot disrupts this symphony of moving parts and perpetuates ailments through biological imbalances.

Limiting tilling practices, reducing bare soil, planting in tune with the movements of the Cosmos, and rotating livestock daily can coerce the accelerating forces of the Universe into abundance.

Find all of Darby's posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Planting A Future: Profiles from Oregon’s New Farm Movement spotlights 18 Oregon farms and farm supporters who are committed to a return to ecologically sound agricultural practices. This group reflects the diversity of people, both young and old, who are reshaping our state’s food system and reclaiming our right to eat well. In their stories you will hear how they came to be where they are, learn something about the challenges they face, and share their happiness at the successes they’ve enjoyed thus far. The following profile has been excerpted from Planting A Future.

Read Part 1 of the Barking Moon Farm profile.

“It’s hard to do this year after year and to continually do without,” said Josh. “Like not be able to buy kids clothes. Take a vacation. Have time to be with my kids. Decide if I’m going to bathe, or eat, or spend time with my family, because I can’t do it all. But with the way things are going at the moment, the skill of our employees is alleviating a lot of the pressure that was on me. We even bought a canoe recently, and believe me, that’s been a big thing… just going to the lake and cooling down on the weekends.”

As Josh and Melissa have struggled and learned and grown through their first seven years of farming, Josh feels like they’ve learned a great deal – both about what to do and what not to do. So I asked him what advice he would give other folks who are thinking about giving farming a try.

“We’ve definitely learned that it’s important to have a partner who supports you,” he said. “Your partner doesn’t necessarily have to help you farm, but they have to be supportive of what you’re trying to do. And you have to return that support. You both need to be happy and fulfilled or in the long run, things just won’t work because there’s too much pressure.

“We’ve also learned that getting bigger is not necessarily the path to more money or a better return or a better quality of life. You don’t have to stay small to succeed, but you have to make the choices that work best for your operation. Like we discovered that wholesale doesn’t work for us. It actually puts a lot of small farmers out of business. That’s probably what would have happened to us if we tried to stay with it, but it was important to try it. You have to try everything to find out what works. Different markets, different crops, different varieties. That’s how you find out what works best for you.”

Another point that Josh makes echoes the comments I’ve heard from so many farmers… first and foremost, if you’re going to choose farming, make sure you love it. To help you figure that out, Josh recommends doing an internship. You could just get a job as a farm laborer, and you no doubt would learn a great deal over time. But internships provide more of a big picture educational component. You get a glimpse of the many different aspects of farming that just working in the fields doesn’t provide.

Barking Moon Farm typically accepts one intern each year from Rogue Farm Corps. According to its website, RFC’s programs combine hands-on training, classroom learning, and farm-based experience on family farms in Oregon’s Rogue Valley and the southern part of the Willamette Valley. ATTRA, the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service is another source for both people wishing to be interns and farmers seeking help.

All of the tasks involved in farming, the growing, the marketing, the bookkeeping, managing employees, acquiring and maintaining equipment, it’s a lot to wrap your head around when you’re just getting started. That’s why Josh feels that any new farmer will have best chance for success if he or she starts small.

“It’s so important to start really small,” he said. “Partly because there’s so much to learn, but also because that makes it easier to diversify your income by having some sort of off-farm job, at least in the beginning. Farming isn’t going to provide a return very quickly, and diversity helps manage risk. Income diversity, as well as diversity in your markets and your products. What we’ve found really helps us is spreading things out. Unfortunately, this approach means there are no major wins, but there also are no major losses.”

In other words, stability translates into sustainability. And sustainability means making enough money to pay the bills.

“You know, a lot of people talk about being sustainable in terms of farming practices. And we do, too, but for us, first and foremost, we base our decisions on a model of financial sustainability. Because we want this to last. We love being here, and we love doing it. Money’s a real part of that, and we quickly found that out. So for us what feels most comfortable is being able to pay the bills. I don’t have to be a rich guy, but we still have debt from our start-up, and I don’t like owing people money. It makes me uneasy if we can’t come through and pay our bills. So having more coming in than we have going out is what feels sustainable to us.”

Listening to Josh makes it clear that farming’s not for everyone. He believes that what gets a lot of people into it is all the romantic notions, and he admits that he never thought his foray into farming would lead him to this farm.  “Initially, I kind of thought maybe we’d be weekend warriors. We’d do a farmers market with a couple heads of lettuce. My notions were sitting on the deck with a cup of coffee in the morning looking down and saying that everything looks good.”

He didn’t realize he would be an employer or doing payroll or negotiating leases. In fact, Josh says that much of the time he doesn’t even think of himself as a farmer. He sees himself as a small businessman who happens to be doing farming. But regardless, farming is what he definitely wants to continue to do for as long as he can.

Josh grows thoughtful as he projects his thoughts into the future… “I think I want to live here forever… on this particular property. I just love it here. Both our kids were born here, and I feel like they want to live forever, too, or so they say right now. But they’re three and seven. But I am a little frightened to lock myself in and say that I’m going to be a farmer forever. Our business may change later in life. Just as I get older. I don’t really know what will happen down the road, but for now I’m trying to take care of myself so that I can do this for a long time.”

Order your copy of Planting A Future: Profiles from Oregon's New Farm Movement.

(Top photo) The Applegate Store and Cafe in Applegate, Oregon reflects the character of the Southern Oregon region.

(Middle photo) A Barking Moon intern from Rogue Farm Corps checks her laptop while taking a break.

(Bottom photo) Josh Cohen leases these highly productive fields that are located several miles east of his house.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Over at Sun Dog Farm things are moving at a hare's pace. The Spring crops are sprinting for the finish line while the Summer crops swell and spread utilizing the bountiful rains and heavy sunlight.  I do my best to live in the moment, to smell the Mimosa blooms and gaze at the Chestnut Tassels before their notes and textures are lost to the dreamlike presence of memories.

The beginning of Summer is a beautiful time in the valley. The neotropical songbirds have all returned to the woodlot and the hummingbirds feed on the day lilies. Wild blackberries fill every gap in vegetation with ripening charcoal colored beauties. Our recently adopted feline is quickly learning what it means to be a farm cat and patrols the fields for careless voles and mice. A fat and happy woodchuck has been preying on our Spring field and he will soon meet the swift hand of veggie justice from my husband's rifle. Contemplating the ebb and flow of life, predators and prey, crops and wild spaces, has my senses keenly focused on the organs of my farm body. Just like our human bodies, the farm itself is a contained system of working parts.

The Head and Chest of the Farm Body

In biodynamic agriculture, the highest goal of cultivation is always an intricate balance of all of these systems, providing for holistically grown foods that continually build on the fertility of the landscape, as opposed to degrade and diminish it over time. With whole system awareness and observation, we are able to monitor the health of these relationships. When any of these systems experience stagnation or impurity, our first clues generally fall within the health of our crops and livestock. Modern day agriculture has us treating these plants and animals on an individualized level, usually ignoring the greater context of circumstances that has lead to the disease or pest problem. This limited perspective often times perpetuates imbalances by encouraging us to introduce chemicals or plant and animal concentrates into the situation to boost the crops up or defeat the disease or insect. Generally when we adopt such a band-aid method of problem solving, we are never necessarily touching the root of the problem and run the risk of learning lessons the hard way through crop loss and sick livestock. Healthy crops and livestock will not grow where soil is insufficient in mineral content and biology. Plants will not be able to produce healthy fruits from their flowering stages without the aid of a healthy endocrine system provided by the mobility of insects.

When we consider the farm body, we should imagine a person who is upside down with their head and chest within the realm of the soil. The surface of the soil representing the diaphragm, the mediator between the nutrient networks and passageways of the Earth and the gaseous expanse of the atmosphere. All of the circulation and respiration of the farm body is happening within the soil. This highlights the importance of air pockets and pathways that can only be constructed from living beings. Plant roots, decaying material, and macro and microbiology work within the soil to prevent stagnation and allow the farm to breathe. When there is stagnation, such as compaction or loss of biological activity, the farm body suffers from below the ground up.  Crops will lose their relationships with key microorganisms that would normally provide essential minerals to the roots in exchange for root exudates and water would begin to run across the top of the soil instead of working its way down through the ecology under foot, circulating nutrients along the way. Too much stock on the pasture and over-tilling are two of the major culprits that cause damage to the chest and head of your farm body.  While working the soil and raising your own animals can certainly benefit the farm organism through biodiversity, if not managed well and balanced with other ecological farming practices, it can degrade soil nutrition through loss of soil structure. This loss of structure will also ultimately lead to the inability of the farm organism to efficiently cleanse itself of toxins and impurities.

Intensive daily livestock rotation and alternative growing methods such as limited till, permaculture, no-till, mulching, double-digging, and spading facilitate more habitat, in the soil and in the atmosphere, which in turn facilitates more productivity. (Lovel, Hugh. Quantum Agriculture: Biodynamics and Beyond. Blairsville, GA: Quantum Agriculture Publishers, 2014. Print.) 

The Diaphragm of the Farm Body

The diaphragm of your farm body attracts all of the life within your farm, literally. It is the boundary of soil to atmosphere that houses all of the life below it and encourages all life above it. The more diversely populated this sliver of an organ is within your farm body, the healthier the farm will be. This means that pest organisms will occur, but they will be living in a competitive ecosystem. There will be other organisms competing for their habitat niche but also plenty of predatory insects, birds, amphibians, and small mammals to keep their populations low. The crops may experience some damage now and again from these pests, but the power of the diversified ecology will encourage vigorous, holistic growth that will have your crops thriving through it.

There's more to this story. Click here to read The Biodynamic Farm Body, Part 2. You can find all of Darby's posts by here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

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MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.