Tag Archives: regenerative agriculture

Farm Design: The BIG Picture:

Thanks to a drone picture from our interns, I can explain a bit about our farm design from a different perspective. While this image only shows a small part of the farm it does capture an intersection of farm systems.

One of the first major changes we made on the farm was fence off a remnant wetland in 2016 and plant native grasses, flax, shrubs and trees. The aims are to improve water quality, control erosions, provide habitat, and increase biological diversity.

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Next we bisected the valley with fencing and designated one side for goats and one side for kune kune pigs. On the goat side – where you can see the bee hives – we’ve planted around 50 poplar poles to stabilise the slopes. Each of these is protected by a heavy duty plastic sleeve to prevent the goats from stripping the bark.

On the pig side we have planted around 40 poplars, 32 olives, and 60 akeake trees, all of which are unprotected because the pigs eat grass but do not browse trees.

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Next we fenced the rest of the stream, which goes far beyond the picture shown here. Along this stretch of stream we’ve planted primarily cabbage trees and Australian river oak (casuarina). Both are known to have fibrous root systems that are good at holding stream banks.

Part of this area contains a small hillside formerly covered in gorse and thistles, as well as another remnant wetland. We’ve planted more native trees, flax and willows there. This area can be used as an emergency browse block in case of severe drought.

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The area under the pines provides seasonal grazing as needed. We can rotate the goats or  pigs through this area to rest other paddocks.

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Most of the farm has poor soil drainage that does not suit avocado trees. But there is a shelf of land above the stream that has better drainage that will host 30 to 40 trees. We’ve fenced this area temporarily to establish tagasaste (tree lucerne) as a companion to the avocados.

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The olives are on the dry and windy hillside above the avocados.

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We planted 40 ake ake on a dry hillside on one side of the large poplars seen in the middle of the image and another 20 on the other side of them. Ake ake are well adapted to dry conditions.

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In the short term we are having to hand water many of these trees, but in the long term they will contribute to the resilience of the farm. Trees help build resilience to both drought and flood. We’ve planted over 2,000 in the last four years.

At present the bees are managed by a contractor who pays us an annual fee. We have a good diversity of flowering plants that provide more-or-less year-round bee fodder.

Peace, Estwing

 

Kaitiaki Farm Weekend 2019: 23rd-24th March

We open the farm each year in March for tours and workshops.

Kaitiaki is an exemplar permaculture farm just outside Whanganui, New Zealand. The farm is managed holistically for food production, land restoration and water management. We focus on resilient farming and regenerative agriculture.

 

Saturday 23rd March

12:30-2:00. Innovative Cookers and Dehydrators. This hands-on workshop covers the use and construction solar dehydrators and rocket stoves and demonstrates three different solar cookers.

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2:00-3:30. Building and Managing Weed-Free Garden Beds. This hands-on workshop covers all the steps for converting a lawn or paddock easily into a low-maintenance/high-productivity garden.

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4:00-5:00. Growing Great Garlic. Learn some tips for growing delicious garlic organically. Fee includes one bulb of seed garlic and five litres of compost.

$20 each or $50 for all three.

Meals and accommodation available. Please inquire for options and prices.

 

Sunday 24th March

9:00-3:00. Permaculture Farm Tour. We run a fully-integrated diverse operation on 5.1 hectares integrating plants and animals in distinct relationships based on potential synergies.

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The morning session covers what would be considered permaculture zones 0 – 3 focusing on eco-building and alternative energy, market gardening, hot composting, tractoring fowl, soil fertility, water management, wind breaks, and orchard planning.

The afternoon session covers what would be considered permaculture zones 3 – 5 focusing on water management, erosion control, slope and stream bank stabilization, browse blocks/pollarding stock fodder, and wetland restoration.

$75 Individuals, $120 Couples. Includes Lunch.

Register: theecoschool@ gmail dot com

Location: Okoia, Whanganui.

Primary Tutor: Dr. Nelson Lebo is an eco design professional with two decades experience in permaculture.

Transforming a Slope with Regenerative Agriculture

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.

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This shot shows a working bee assembling a small shelter for the Nature Play programmes we have begun running on the farm.

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Here the shelter is nearly complete.

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Add children and sheep.

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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.

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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.

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By the way, we sold the cows as they proved too damaging of the steeper slopes in winter.

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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.)

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Here are three of our interns planting the olive trees in April 2017.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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,[1] improve water cycles,[2] enhance ecosystem services, increase resilience to climate fluctuation and strengthen the health and vitality of farming and ranching communities.[3][4][5][6]

Regenerative agriculture is based on applied research and thinking that integrates organic farmingpermacultureagroecologyagroforestryrestoration ecologyKeyline design and holistic management.

On a regenerative farm biological production and ecological structure grow more complex over time. Yields increase while external inputs decrease. 

 

Peace, Estwing

Regenerative Agriculture: The Popular Face of Permaculture

“Hippy farms always fail.” These were the words of Chuck Barry, a small-scale organic farmer I met in Montrose, Colorado about ten years ago. Chuck made a comfortable living growing high quality vegetables on two acres in a dry and seasonally cold environment that may be compared with Central Otago high country.

His comment was based on observations of some people going into farming with good intentions but little understanding of the amount of work involved and inadequate business sense. There is popular, quaint, romantic notion among many people about growing food organically. But at the end of the day, when faced with actually doing it, most hippies opt out because it turns out to be just too hard.

On the other end of the spectrum – as we have been hearing recently in the news – many conventional farms also fail. Conventional farming wisdom over the last decade goes something like this: 1) borrow lots of money from the bank; 2) convert to dairy; 3) borrow more money; 4) rely on ever-increasing dairy pay outs; 5) borrow more money; 6) rely on ever-increasing land prices; 7) get rich; 8) what could possibly go wrong?

Well, now we know. Dairy pay outs have fallen through the floor and many farmers are pushed to the wall.

On one hand I feel sorry for those famers who have to sell because of their now un-payable debts. But on the other hand, I question why they bought into the paradigm described above in the first place, which appears to me to be very risky.

Alongside financial debt, many conventional farms also run a large soil debt. We see it every day flowing past our city and out into the Tasman Sea.

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Like financial debt, soil debt is difficult to repay but not impossible. Rebuilding soil fertility while growing food is sometimes called regenerative agriculture. Regenerative agriculture can include organic farming practices, some biodynamic techniques, and holistic range management. All three of these fall within the scope of the eco-design system known as permaculture. I see permaculture as the middle ground between failed hippy farms and failed conventional farms. Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 10.05.45 am

For those who are far right of centre, permaculture may seem like a hippy philosophy, but I would argue that its endurance (40 years and counting) proves it is not. Permaculture farming and land use is practiced around the world in a wide range of climatic conditions from desert to rainforest and in between. It is likely that someone in every country on earth is practicing permaculture in one form or another.

Locally, permaculture is practiced by a small but growing number of people in our community – mostly in the forms of organic and regenerative agriculture. But the scope of permaculture extends far beyond growing food. As a system for eco-design, it is a natural lens through which to view energy-efficient housing, and even the waste management programme for community events that I brought to Whanganui five years ago can be considered an application of permaculture thinking because it takes a holisitic perspective of inputs, outputs, and the human element of waste management. Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 10.05.36 am

While permaculture is only one of many eco-design philosophies, what sets it apart from the others in that it is based in a set of core ethics: care for the earth; care for people; share surplus resources. It is these ethics that are the driving force behind the third annual Whanganui Permaculture Weekend, as dedicated permaculturists in our community share their knowledge, experience and enthusiasm on a wide range of topics.

Thanks to those who have stepped up with offerings next weekend and thanks to Adult and Community Education Aotearoa for working with us to organise Adult Learners Week, which starts Sunday.

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Adult Learners Week – He Tangata Matauranga 2015

6th – 13th September

Whanganui

All events are free thanks in part to support from Adult and Community Education Aotearoa.

Sunday 6th 2-3 PM. Best Heating Options for Your Home, Central Library

Tuesday 8th 5-6 PM. Hot Composting, 223 No.2 Line

Wednesday 9th 4-5 PM. Reducing Heat Loss Through Windows, Gonville Café Library

Friday 11th 4-5 PM. Managing Moisture and Condensation, Gonville Café Library

In conjunction with the Whanganui Permaculture Weekend

Saturday 12th 4:30-5:30 PM. Best Gardening Tools for You. Josephite Retreat Centre, 14 Hillside Tce.

Sunday 13th 4-5 PM. Tomatoes Before Christmas. Wanganui Garden Centre, 95a Gonville Ave.

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