At Bluebird Orchards, we practice the regenerative method of farming: A form of sustainable farming that focuses specifically on rebuilding healthy soil. In a world where we have continually depleted and polluted our soils for decades, we are now frantically looking for means to preserve what we once took for granted and abused so heavily.
In regenerative farming, everything is utilized, composted, returned to the soil to help build it up. And since chemicals defeat the purpose, we do not ever use any type of chemical for any reason. Not only is all organic matter returned to the soil, but every animal on the farm has their own purpose that contributes to the overall health of the orchard and grounds. The geese, for example, eat weeds, and of course, contribute manure. The chickens eat bugs that hide under the bushes, leaves and plants and that are secretly killing our productive plants or eating them.
Many people in the farming world refer to our style of living and growing as homesteading: everything has a purpose that contributes to the overall health of the land, and nothing is ever used that is harmful to that well-being.
It’s a very rewarding, awesome way to live; but not for everyone. It also requires a great deal of hard, physical work to attain, and a thorough knowledge of what you are doing to achieve. Since I have been involved in organics for over 20 years, I already have a very thorough knowledge of organic growing, organic foods and organic living. Taking a broken down, neglected and abused piece of property such as the one I just purchased and turning it around to be a vibrant, prolific Garden of Eden is extremely rewarding. Every time we have a visitor to the farm they comment on how beautiful it is. That is always a nice pat on the back for a job well done in my opinion.
However, it doesn’t come easy or without it’s setbacks. For instance, this year our apple orchard came down with cedar apple rust. Unfortunately, there are a lot of cedar trees growing in our area that I cannot do anything about. We live next to a state park that has red cedar growing right across the road from the farm. The best we can do is put up barriers between the farm and the park, but that only minimizes the contamination and will never eliminate it.
It took me two years just to get this property to a manageable state, because the previous owners did not maintain it, it was overgrown with many varieties of invasive and poisonous weeds. The most difficult and trying job in the agricultural world is getting a grip on such a weed infestation as I have never seen before. And it has been a labor intensive job at best.It can take 3-4 years to get an invasive weed species under any amount of control, and if you are not just as persistent as they are every minute, you will lose the battle, for they are just looking for any opportunity to regain control.
Regenerative agriculture is not a new concept to organic growers in the least. It is basically just one of the many sustainable and organic techniques used by us every day in order to achieve organic growing. Why so much attention has been focused on it of late is probably due to the fact – as I mentioned earlier – that the agricultural community is now looking for ways to try and reverse generations of soil abuse because our soils have become so depleted they are no longer able to sustain any life. They are dead. Chemicals of any kind make the soil hard, barren, and lifeless. Pesticides kill the beneficial bacteria needed to nourish the soil. Chemical fertilizers and weed killers eventually make it impossible to grow in soil where they are used, not to mention all the additional contamination they cause to ground water, our air quality, wildlife, and the very important pollinators farmers so need, such as the bees.
We have learned a difficult lesson the hard way: that we cannot continue to kill our soils with chemicals and deplete them with over-farming and expect them to last forever.
I once read an article about a colony of Tibetan monks who were having a building construction project going on within their monastery. The construction work was halted by the monks going out into the site and saving every earth worm they could find. Most people find that a bit radical, but I find myself doing the same thing whenever possible, but this is the building block of regenerative farming: to preserve and protect our precious soils if we expect to have any food in our future.
If you would like to learn how to use regenerative agriculture in your home garden or on your farm, please read our article on regenerative growing techniques.