Regenerative Agriculture has been in the news a lot lately. “The World Food Prize winner says soil should have rights. Soil scientist Dr. Rattan Lal digs deep into the power of soil to sequester carbon, mitigate climate change, and the need for a Clean Soil Act,” by Virginia Gewin, July 16, 2020.
“ ‘Biggest Little Farm’ director on farming with nature, not against it,” by Natasha Pinon, July 31, 2020. “If you’ve been dreaming about moving out to the open range and starting a farm in harmony with nature, someone already beat you to it. Enter Molly and John Chester, the couple behind the Biggest Little Farm, a Hulu documentary that chronicles how they brought new life to a dead farm using regenerative agriculture techniques. When snails swarmed their orchards, they brought in ducks, whose poop was creating toxic algae blooms in a pond on the property, to eat the snails. When crops attracted gophers, who were then killing trees, they brought in owls, who then ate gophers. (Their poop reinvigorated the trees, too.) Everything was meant to be cyclical.”
The processes include planting native trees in pasturelands, avoiding soil erosion with aquifers, planting cover crops, and avoiding tilling.
I was lucky enough to work with Agatha Jędrzejczyk, Community Food Action Developer at Kalum Community School Society. Her society rented an office at the Community Centre where I worked, and in the adjacent community garden, she taught me Lasagna Gardening. Do not dig up anything. Start with a few layers of thick cardboard (broken-down boxes work well) and water it. This attracts worms and cuts off sun and air to weeds. Colleen Vanderlinen in “How to Make a Lasagna Garden” continues: “Alternate layers of “brown materials,” such as dry leaves, shredded newspaper, peat, and pine needles, with layers of “green materials,” such as vegetable scraps, garden trimmings, and grass clippings. Your “brown” layers should be roughly twice as deep as your “green” layers, though absolute precision is not that important. The result of your layering process should be a 2-foot-tall bed, which will shrink down in just a few weeks.”
Agatha and I had some very enjoyable Monday mornings, racing the city truck to grab bags of grass clippings. (City truck always won, but my highlight of those race days was Agatha’s cartoon-like reaction when she poked her head into a compost bag that was filled to the brim with dog doo-doo.) I don’t steal compostables for the benefit of the community anymore, but I use Lasagna Gardening at home and spend just a few minutes each season weeding.
I was on the board of the Greater Terrace Food Association for a while, and got to know about the Rauschenbergers, a local farming couple. “In this lecture, Carolanne Rauschenberger will talk about Permaculture which is a type of sustainable agriculture which emphasizes the harmonious interrelationship of humans, plants, animals and the Earth. She will also talk about Hugelkultur (HOO-gul-culture) which is a gardening and farming technique whereby one creates mounded garden beds with biomass such as logs, leaves, compost and soil.” Inspiration Green and Permaculture magazine continues, “Simply mound logs, branches, leaves, grass clippings, straw, cardboard, petroleum-free newspaper, manure, compost or whatever other biomass you have available, top with soil and plant your veggies.
“The advantages of a hugel bed are many, including: the gradual decay of wood is a consistent source of long-term nutrients for the plants and generates heat which should extend the growing season. Soil aeration increases as those branches and logs break down, meaning the bed will be no till, long term. The logs and branches act like a sponge. Rainwater is stored and then released during drier times. Sequester carbon into the soil.”
We also have Young Agrarians in town. “In the fertile soils of the Skeena River Valley, Farmer Cam grows vegetables at Hidden Acres Farm and Treehouse Resort. Established in 2019, Farmer Cam’s Foods (FCF) produces nutritious microgreens, fresh greens and salad mix, and flavourful herbs, roots, and fruiting crops.”
My last segment of my new (now cancelled) community TV show, “Char Can Cook Keto,” was taped just before the pandemic hit. “Interested in local food systems and security? You’re invited to an afternoon of connecting with local farmers, food producers at the second annual Skeena-Bulkley Valley Meet and Greet, March 7, 2020.
“Join Vicky and Chris of Thimbleberry Farm for an afternoon of networking and idea-sharing. Make new connections and strengthen old ones among the region’s agricultural community members.”
From their website: “Established in 2016, owners and operators Vicky and Chris manage a market garden, pastured poultry, layer flock, and meat rabbits. As a no-till, no-pesticide/herbicide farm, Vicky and Chris integrate the farm’s different operations to create a healthy and diverse agro-ecosystem that produces nutritious, ethically grown food for their community. Growing over 25 varieties of colourful, nutrient-dense and delicious vegetables. High quality, humanely-raised pastured poultry and rabbit meat, as well as eggs and artisan bread.”
I can vouch for the artisan bread. Although Vicky told me it is not a true sourdough (she does use a small amount of yeast), because of its long rise (8 hours? 18? I don’t recall) I can digest it with no tummy troubles.
The Skeena Valley was once known as “The Okanagan of the North,” producing a wide variety of fruits and veg that were shipped south and east by train. Then, the farmers became loggers, foresters, or sawmill employees, as the burgeoning industry grew.
I’m glad to see Regenerative Agriculture, with improved soil improving the nutrients in the food, is not far away, long ago, or in the future. It is here and it is now.
Farmer Cam. (n.d.) From https://www.farmercamsfoods.ca
Gewin, V. (2020.) “The World Food Prize Winner Says Soil Should Have Rights.” From https://civileats.com/2020/07/15/the-world-food-prize-winner-says-soil-should-have-rights/?fbclid=IwAR3tlRlbiQh4L4GkTIVizTE3Un9uq3JcIZVBnNdEdEJJGafn6uNxIsYK-j0
Inspiration Green and Permaculture magazine. (2013.) “The Many Benefits of Hugelkultur.” From https://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/many-benefits-hugelkultur
Pinon, N. (2020.) “ ‘Biggest Little Farm’ director on farming with nature, not against it.” From From https://mashable.com/article/what-is-regenerative-agriculture/
Heritage Park Museum. (2016.) “The Permaculture Experience — developing hugelkultur.” From http://heritageparkmuseum.com/event/gardens-green-spaces-growing-squash-in-the-north/
Thimbleberry Farm. (n.d.) From https://www.thimbleberryfarm.org
Vanderlinden, C. (2020.) “How to make a lasagna garden.” From https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-make-a-lasagna-garden-2539877
Young Agrarians. (2020.) “Skeena-Bulkley farmers meet & greet with Thimbleberry farm.” From https://youngagrarians.org/skeena-bulkley-farmers-meet/