Climate change whiplash is upon us. We have gone from record heat over the past few years (with a 1200 year drought) to a winter with all-time record-setting precipitation and snowpack. Farming is difficult enough without all these extremes, but how do we respond when change occurs too quickly for nature to adapt?
Most farmers impose their will on nature. They are individualists who believe they can organize nature to serve their purpose. This approach might realize short-term profitability, but at what cost to the long-term health of the farm and the surrounding environment? At what point does “efficient” conventional farming have diminishing returns as nature – through climate change pestilence and disease – fights back to try to find balance?
We, as farmers, have a responsibility to look at the big picture and approach farming as mutualists instead of individualists. We need to recognize that nature has a grand design and we need to humble ourselves as we learn where we fit in. We need to be honest and self-aware, and ask what practices we can change to heal the damage we’ve caused to nature by ignoring natural processes.
Instead of posing rhetorical questions and lecturing from a soapbox, the following photos will illustrate the difference between a conventional farm and our holistic, biodiverse farm. All farm photos were taken on the same day; Wednesday, March 8, 2023.
These images are not of RSV’s vineyards. Though they look pretty, they tell a sobering story of imbalance. There is standing water on all of these vineyards. The soil has been compacted by the overuse of tractors and both mechanical and chemical tillage. Evidence of the use of glyphosate herbicide (a known carcinogen that has been linked to other health problems as well) can be seen in the bare vine rows. The steep hillside sheets water and carries with it topsoil and chemical residue into the pond. The pond has no habitat around it. The last picture shows the water running off the hillside and our dense hedgerow that separates the farms. These farms only serve the owners’ needs. They are ignoring the long-term consequences of neglecting the balance of nature above and below the ground, as there is little habitat for other species and the soil is compacted while shedding water and topsoil. The life-giving mycorrhiza and microorganisms die off and the land loses its ability to sequester carbon, instead releasing it to further exacerbate climate change. The deal with nature is broken.
Mutualism at work. These photos of RSV’s Capa Vineyard show a living, regenerative farm with life above and under the ground. Cover crops are nurtured to encourage carbon sequestration, sheep graze the cover crop and not only provide nutrition but also help to avoid the compaction that tractors and chemical tillage would cause if used in their place. The soil absorbs water and has a healthy microbiome with a network of mycorrhiza that take the nutrients from the soil to feed the vines. There is no standing or running water on this farm even though it had just experienced record rain. Trees remain on the periphery and hedgerows of indigenous plants separate RSV’s vineyard from the neighbors to help mitigate overspray from their farms and to provide habitat for insects, birds, animals and reptiles.
The Inside Track
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