After our initial failure to farm rice in the farm’s first year of operation, we quickly learned on thing: we need to work with the land rather than make it work for us. We began to see that the farm as more than a plot of land. To us, it became a living, breathing organism, in need of care and healing. Our view of a farm as being a food production facility shifted to that of a farm as a soil producing unit. As a result of this realization, our primary job shifted from producing food to promoting and assisting the farm in creating healthy soil.
In order to accomplish this, we adopted four primary techniques that promote the overall health of the farm. These techniques focus on harnessing and intensifying processes that are found at work in nature.
- Worm-Castings We invested in 1 kg of African earthworms. Two years later, we now have over 30 bins of healthy and thriving worms that produce worm castings which we use throughout the farm and especially in production of our vegetable crops.
- Composting Nothing that grows on our farm goes to waste. From the rice straw remaining at the end of harvest to the weeds that were cut to clear a path between our fields, we use it all. The more diverse the mix, the better. We use our compost as nutritional supplements for all our crops.
- Natural Fertilizers We use absolutely no artificially produced fertilizers, but rather create our own. We focus primarily in fertilizers that employ bio-active processes to release nutrients and hormones found in plants grown on the farm or purchased at market. You can find out more about these fertilizers here.
- Cover Crops The process of cover cropping of sowing dense fields of a given crop with the intent of both blocking weed production and adding nutrient value. Examples, which we have used, are soybean, mung bean and sunn hemp. The added value of these crops is that the organic matter produced serves three purposes: weed block, nutrient enrichment for the soil, and structural support for the soil itself.
It was through the implementation of these techniques that our farm was able to heal its soil in only one year. Our second year of rice farming was an unqualified success because of each of these process being put into practice. However, this was only possible because we came to see that we needed to care for the land.
Now into our third rice season, the land is now caring for us. While not losing focus of tending to the land, our farm is producing food which is provided as a nutrition supplement to at-risk families who are served by The Charis Project’s Community Engagement Team. The farm serves as a source of year-round and seasonal employment to residents in the area. It also serves as an example to the local farmers of self-sustaining and natural farming methods.
When we care for creation, it is able to show that it wants to care for us as well.