For 2012 I’m trying a new regimen of allowing all the vegetation to grow up together in the garden, vs mowing, weeding, or trimming. As we get to the hot, dry part of the summer I find that the garden beds are better insulated with all the extra ground cover and that even very aggressive “weeds” haven’t cut into my production all that much. This photo was taken yesterday and you’ll notice that paths and divisions between “beds” have largely disappeared over the course of the season. It’s not actually a bad look – very “abundant”.
Sitting around the supper table last night (zucchini-bacon cakes with basil dipping sauce) R. brought up a TED talk he listened to in the car titled “Chef Dan Barber talks about his pursuit of a sustainable fish he could love”. The farm he chose was one that had tens of thousand of acres under minimal cultivation, and the scale of the enterprise allowed other species to compliment as well as compete with his farmed fish. The farmer was even sanguine about the percentage of his crop to flamingos who moved in once the marine life was established (“Aren’t they a beautiful pink color!”).
I don’t have an extraordinary amount of land available, but I like the overall philosophy. The photo below is of garden beds for green beans, lettuce, snow peas and tomatoes (all of which would be much more evident if I was mowing down paths as in other years). The area is maximized for growth, minimized for labor.
After very cursory research, it seems this concept of large scale land use combined with minimal amendments for a (possibly) lower yield is labeled “extensive” as opposed to “intensive” farming. I’ll be doing more research and planning for next steps as the active harvest season closes out in November. . . meanwhile, potatoes and grapes are coming in!
From the Wikipedia article on Intensive Farming:
Less labour per unit areas is required to farm large areas, especially since expensive alterations to land (like terracing) are completely absent.
Mechanisation can be used more effectively over large, flat areas.
Greater efficiency of labour means generally lower product prices.
Animal welfare is generally improved because animals are not kept in stifling conditions.
Lower requirements of inputs such as fertilizers.
If animals are grazed on pastures native to the locality, there is less likely to be problems with exotic species.
Local environment and soil are not damaged by overuse of chemicals.
Yields tend to be much lower than with intensive farming in the short term.
Large land requirements limit the habitat of wild species (in some cases, even very low stocking rates can be dangerous), as is the case with intensive farming