Over the past three years we have been working to make Kaitiaki Farm more productive and resilient. While there are lots of examples of this work on the farm, this is a good case study on what regenerative agriculture can look like using a step-by-step example of transforming a north-facing slope from grazing to a mixed-use perennial and animal system while including native plantings and early childhood learning programmes.
This ‘Before’ picture looks down the hillside into the valley at a shelf where the cows are grazing, a remnant wetland below it, and about one acre of native bush across the valley. We are lucky in that this may be the only native bush along Purua Stream for the entire length of the valley.
This shot shows a working bee assembling a small shelter for the Nature Play programmes we have begun running on the farm.
Here the shelter is nearly complete.
Add children and sheep.
Then came the massive task of fencing off about 600 metres of the stream to keep stock out of the water and off of the banks. Horizons Regional Council assisted this process by paying half the cost.
Next we commenced planting the first of over 2,000 natives along the stream, which has involved three school groups and six planting bees. It’s possible to see some of the trees just over the fence in the picture below.
By the way, we sold the cows as they proved too damaging of the steeper slopes in winter.
Next we shifted the sheep to the other side of the farm so we could plant the mid-slope on the hill with olive trees that will be able to withstand the hot dry summers and northwest winds that blow up the valley. (Note the poplar pole in the photo below.)
Here are three of our interns planting the olive trees in April 2017.
Then we introduced kune kune pigs to eat the grass around the olive trees but not the trees themselves as the sheep and cows would.
One of the final jobs to do was to fence off the shelf between the hillside and the wetland. This is the only part of the farm that has free-draining soil so we decided to put an avocado orchard there. We’ll temporarily fence out the pigs while the tagasaste nurse trees and avocado trees get established, then we’ll let them back in to graze the grass.
Here is the final shot for now – taken last week: over 200 tagasaste saplings have been planted on the shelf and the avocados are waiting until a canopy is formed; two litters of kune kune piglets have been born in the valley (note the pig shelters in the shot below); the 32 olive trees have been staked with warratahs on the hillside as the pigs were walking over some of them.
On the upper slope (above the farm track in the photo above) we’ve planted native manuka, kanuka and flax, as well as more poplar poles and more tagasaste. On there slope above that are 30-year old radiata pines.
Can’t wait to plant those avocados and retire from my day job!
* FYI, here is a great definition of regenerative agriculture from Wikipedia:
Regenerative agriculture (RA) is an approach to food and farming systems that rejects pesticides, artificial fertilizers and aims to regenerate topsoil, increase biodiversity, improve water cycles, enhance ecosystem services, increase resilience to climate fluctuation and strengthen the health and vitality of farming and ranching communities.
Regenerative agriculture is based on applied research and thinking that integrates organic farming, permaculture, agroecology, agroforestry, restoration ecology, Keyline design and holistic management.
On a regenerative farm biological production and ecological structure grow more complex over time. Yields increase while external inputs decrease.