One of the first things we learnt when we started working on the land was the importance of maintaining soil health.
Every season we deplete the soil of its nutrition by harvesting vegetables, fruits and cereals and try to compensate for it by adding chemical fertilisers. This not only damages the soil but the entire ecosystem linked to it.
Rudolf Steiner’s work in agriculture emphasises mainly on re-establishing the connection between the soil and the cosmos. Only a healthy soil can produce healthy food in turn giving us the vitality to follow our pursuits. Fukuoka proves that good soil can be maintained by rotating crops, imitating natural decomposition cycles and by using pests and insects strategically to the farmer’s benefit.Indian farming practises of Jeevamrit, Amrut mutti etc are all towards the same goal.
Building soil layer by layer is a technique practiced and professed by many farmers and agriculture experts around the world. The basic idea is to keep adding layers of biomass which will decompose over time and slowly release the nutrients to the soil and replenish it. By doing this, you end up with a ‘raised bed’ in a few months and its ready to produce your crop.
The image shows how the beds were prepared here. While making the layers consider how easily the material will decompose and whether it will be too acidic/basic for the soil.
Fukuoka says that insects in a garden are not pests. They are an important part of the ecosystem and our limited understanding of the ecosystem forces us to use pesticides, insecticides which damage the soil and make use of more chemicals and fertilisers necessary.
What if the vegetables were planted together in a way that they take care of each other, deterring insects, attracting pollinators and sharing resources (space for roots, nutrients in the soil, water and sun) optimally?
A simple search on internet will give you a list of companion vegetables and plants.
We planned the beds by considering what grows well here, studying the characteristics of each family etc. (for example, onions, garlic and radish deter most insects because of a strong aroma, pea grows well with all veggies and adds nitrogen to the soil, cabbage worms can be prevented by planting aromatic plants near the plant.)
We would love to try out other combinations and see if we get different results!
Building food resilience
It will take us some time to grow all the food that we need at the farm. So we are developing a system of food sharing with our neighbouring farmers (mostly our workers, all of them being farmers). We are already selling milk to them and they bring generous quantities of veggies that they harvest. In return they take coriander, cabbage etc which grows well here.
We would also like to share seeds, saplings etc in future creating more diversity while preserving and propogating local crop varieties.