From poisoned soil to healthy food. Four years can make a lot of difference.
When we bought our farm four years ago, it included a conventionally managed hazelnut grove. Here’s a photo of how the grove looked then:
When we bought the farm the grove produced: hazelnuts. It consumed: time, oil (ride on mower), pesticides, fertilisers, and herbicides.
Now the grove produces: organic lamb, organic wool, organic hazelnuts, organic daffodils (to sell), organic apricots (we put some trees in that are doing well), organic eggs. It consumes: time to harvest the produce but no oil, herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers.
The huge swathes of bare ground beneath the trees in the photo above are typical of a conventionally managed nut plantation. Growers poison the ground beneath the trees so that machines can roll along and easily scoop the nuts up off the ground without grass getting in the way (you can see the bare earth of a conventional nut grove in a harvesting video here). The bare ground makes the whole process quick and easy.
Not so good for the earth or consumers though. Nut groves use a lot of poison.
We decided on a different path for the property when we bought it, and began to manage it on permaculture principles, which are organic and are common-sense – letting the land develop ways to take care of itself with minimum intervention from humans, and eventually create guilds of plants and animals that rely on and support one another naturally.
Here’s a photo of how the same grove looks today, in early Spring:
Healthy soil, healthy trees, healthy animals.
How we turned a conventional hazelnut grove to permaculture and organic in just four years
Our property has been just four years organic.
We fenced the grove so that our sheep could graze. Before this, the grove was open to the house and ungraze-able. This immediately gave us more crops from the same land: organic meat and wool.
We then planted hundreds of bulbs to help break up the compacted earth and give us a secondary crop: flowers to sell.
Next I built a chicken tractor to move along beneath the rows of hazelnuts. This helps manure the hazelnuts (along with the manure from the sheep) so we don’t have to fertilize them. It also gives us a further crop from the same piece of land: eggs from the chickens. Not only do we get fertilizer and eggs from the chickens, but the chickens keep insect pests and weeds down.
Because we have sheep grazing in the grove we also don’t have to mow it. Before we came to the property the previous owners spent about an hour a week on their ride-on mower mowing the grove. We haven’t used the ride-on since we took possession of the farm 🙂
Permaculture makes so much sense. You just have to think, and plan, and use your brain. These are all things we humans are good at.
I think we’ve turned a place of ugliness into one of beauty and wellbeing.
What do you think?