Chickens, rabbits, pigeons, sheep, their manure is brought in for compost in some beds.
Mixed: broadleaf deciduous trees
Mediterranean Altitudinal Zone
Basic Principles addressed
Use Renewable Resources, Minimize Toxics, Conserve Resources, Manage Ecological Relationships, Adjust to Local Environments, Diversify, Value Health , Manage Whole Systems, Maximize Long-Term Benefits, Water and Energy management,
Technical Attractions is on show (solar, thermal energy and water resources management)
- geothermal hotbed (internal temperature above zero in deep circumambient frost)
- special very effective solar hot air heating system
green roof with vegetable cultivation
various fermentation techniques-kimchi, natto, keffir etc.
This small-scale farm serves as both a subsistence farm for a 3 people, and an area for agricultural and herbal research . Farming practices are principally "biointensive," which uses low energy input, fosters healthy soils, and conserves space, while maximizing yields and increasing sustainability. The farm aims to meet the nutritional needs of family, while providing a locale for apprentices to practice biointensive agricultural methods.
Principles of biointensive farming stem from diverse age-old traditional farming systems eg.ancient China or Old French gardening method enhanced by Rudolf Steiners philosophy ideas and closely align with all of the agroecological principles described above and elsewhere eg.on Web sources. By creating an agroecological area that is a closed-system, biointensive agriculture aims to rely solely on the resources within the system. On this farm, only a few renewable resources (e.g. wood for seed flats, stones and some plastic or glass for cold frame) are brought from outside the system, and labor is done almost entirely by hand. By double-digging planting beds, soil is aerated and loosened to a depth of almost 50cm. By close-spacing of plants, more food is produced per unit area. By growing crops specifically for compost, compost availability and soil fertility is ensured. In sum, the sustainability of the system is extremely high.
There are myriad benefits gained from this unique farming arrangement. The non-profit group gains opportunities to try different techniques, such as intercropping, companion planting, and dry farming, and experiment with seed varieties. Impressive yields have been achieved, often doubling typical Czech yield averages for certain crops. In turn, the family benefits from the plethora of healthy foods brought to the kitchen, and from the enhanced ecological sustainability of their farmland.
These biointensive methods are being reintroduced around the world by Ecology Action and other groups to international small-scale farmers primarily because of the increased sustainability and high yields that can be achieved, and additionally, because of the possible future economic gains and overall labor reduction. However, I believe there are several challenges posed by this system, which could possibly make the system less feasible for farmers in some locations.
First, the intensive labor required (for instance, to hand-weed, hand-water, and hand-transplant) may be overwhelming or infeasible depending on the size of the farm or numbers of family members or farmers. Second, getting to a point of self-sustained soil fertility may take a few seasons to build up compost reserves, and external inputs may have to be purchased. Third, with initially high labor requirements, and depending upon the goals and location of a farm and the local market structure, economic sustainability may prove to be the greatest challenge.
The most salient lessons that I find this particular farm to be providing relate to the challenges of meeting the various needs of all of the participants involved in the organization of the farm, while continuing to produce food by using the biointensive methods. Each person involved brings a different experience and perspective to the farm and may have conflicting ideas about how things should be done. Therefore, while "biointensive" implies following a specific set of principles, the participants also incorporate some degree of flexibility and compromise so that all of their individual and collective efforts continue to produce a healthy, sustainable farm benefiting the whole community.
Use Renewable Resources
Hand tools, hand-watering systems, and passive solar greenhouses are used.
Nutrients are recycled through cover cropping and composting.
There is no use of chemical pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides.
Conserve soil by using perennials, no-till methods.
Conserve water by double-digging to aerate soil, watering by hand, propagation in flats, dry farming in some areas.
Conserve energy by using no machinery, and in physical labor--using the body's weight and strengths to prevent injury.
Conserve genetic resources by using heirloom varieties.