Regenerative Agriculture Revolution


Source: Modern Farmer

Organic farming is the agricultural “trend” that we keep hearing about for the future, but what about a different type of farming method that is not certified organic but is still environmentally friendly? The following is the story of John Kempf, a young Amish man who embarked on a quest to rescue his family farm from worsening disease and pest problems and from it all, became a staple in the alternative-agriculture lecture circuit and founder of a consulting company, Advancing Eco Agriculture (AEA). Here’s his story as shared on Modern Farmer:

Once he finished school at age 14, Kempf went to work on his family’s fruit and vegetable farm in northeastern Ohio, overseeing irrigation, plant nutrition and herbicide and pesticide applications. In the fields, Kempf used horses instead of a tractor, with a sprayer powered by a small Honda engine.

It was a trying time for the family. Pests and disease were ravaging the crops, and Kempf found himself mired in escalating chemical warfare against them, with little success. Things hit a low point in 2004, when well over half of the Kempfs’ mainstay crops – tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and cantaloupes – were lost. With the family staring at an increasingly bleak financial situation, Kempf, then 16, set off on his mission to relearn everything he’d been taught about farming.

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India’s First Organic State


Tea plantations on the hillside. PHOTO: Reuters/ Rupak De Chowdhuri

The buzzword is organic. From grocery store shelves to textile designers to travel. At the center of this phenomenon is respect to the land, cognizance of the immense potential of living organisms, acknowledgement of a way of life that has restorative powers. Today, India hears that message loud and clear in the North-eastern hill state of Sikkim.

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Seed Saving as a Safeguard for Biodiversity


This is a seed savers network we are looking to collaborate with on our organic farm initiatives.

The recent post here about The New Yorker article on genetically modified seeds and Vandana Shiva helped me understand more about this era we are entering of biotechnology.

Regardless of whether or not it’s healthy to consume genetically modified foods, we are at risk of losing biodiversity and heirloom varieties. In support of protecting biodiversity, having heirloom varieties of plants in the La Paz Group gardens is important. Once the plants go to seed, we can save them to plant the following season.  Continue reading

Notes from the Garden: Monsoon Season

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Burying the garden waste to prepare the land for planting

As it is monsoon season here in Kerala, we gardeners have to take into consideration the way it affects the soil. Today we did land preparation for the heavy rains. We dug holes in the new beds and took garden waste from old banana plants and buried it. The top of the soil had been mulched with manure and weeds were growing on them. We mixed the manure and weeds into the soil. I like the idea of just mixing the weeds in because then the nutrients that the weeds took from the soil can break down back into the soil again. When the heavy rains come, they would have washed the nutrients from the mulch away so this is to help with nutrient erosion. Continue reading

Notes from the Garden: Quantifying Farm-to-Table

We are in process of building a monkey-proofed area of the garden. You can see my past post to get a feel for the evolution of this idea. The main issue with providing the Cardamom County restaurant with food from the on-site organic farm is monkeys. We were inspired by these subsistence farmers in Ixopo, South Africa, who blogged about building their monkey-proof vegetable cage. They, too, are neighbors with a nature reserve, so their situation is quite similar to Cardamom County! Now, we are on our way to having a truly farm-to-table menu!

Here is the cage we are modeling ours after. Check out their blog:

Here is the cage we are modeling ours after. Check out their blog:

You may be wondering, why is there all this buzz these days about farm-to-table? There is more to it than just fresh, delicious food.

Obviously, a lot of nature gets destroyed for agricultural purposes. In the United States, so much land gets wasted on sprawling, inefficient development. In the in-between spaces, you could feed a nation. But we eat up our open, natural spaces for agriculture. Our agriculture is rarely local so it leads to problems of unnecessary carbon emissions from transport and a lot of not-fresh food in grocery stores. When we can use the land we have already developed on to provide the people there with food, why spread ourselves out so thin into nature? Continue reading

First Week Of Shade Coffee Research, Ecuador

Typical landscape mosaic of Barrio Nuevo

Typical landscape mosaic of Barrio Nuevo

Isabel and I arrived safe and sound to Barrio Nuevo, Pichincha, Ecuador (0.224063°, -78.559691°) on May 21 to begin our study on a shade coffee agroforestry initiated seven years ago (see my blog for background info). We moved into the home of Juan Guevara, the local coffee promoter, and his family. It’s a simple concrete house with a kitchen and three bedrooms.After settling in, we spent a day with Juan going to the homes of various farmers growing coffee to introduce ourselves.

We spent the next three days conducting surveys with the coffee producers as well as visiting, evaluating, and mapping their coffee plots. As I expected, we quickly learned a lot about the problems with the shade coffee project that was implemented about seven years ago. Continue reading

Who am I and what am I doing in Ecuador?

I ask myself that every so often. My name is Evan Barrientos, I was raised in suburban Wisconsin and I go to school at Cornell University in upstate New York. So why am I on a farm in Ecuador right now? The short answer is that I’m about to begin a study on sustainable agriculture and I thought the readers of Raxa Collective might like to hear about it.

Farmer Evan

Farmer Evan

I’m interested in large-scale conservation solutions that make big impacts. There’s nothing wrong with small changes, I’ve just always been a big-picture kind of person. Continue reading