What is Restoration Agriculture?

What is Restoration Agriculture?

Generally speaking it is a form of land and animal management that has as it’s core value the regeneration of the ecosystem that calls our land home. Hundreds of years ago our vast continent was home to incredibly diverse flocks and herds, flora and fauna, and fish and birds. Mankind lived well here too, but we utilized our resources differently than we do today. Our continent once consisted of vast grasslands, clean rivers, woods and forests – all of which worked as part of a fantastic system that we don’t see so much anymore. The early settlers were astonished at this rich land, a land of bounty, a land of hope and promise. Our land is not able to produce the vast quantities of crops that it once was and our animals are not thriving as they once were, and restoration agriculture focuses on how we can restore what we’ve lost.

Restoration Agriculture has grown out of permaculture, and permaculture is a blend of two words – permanent and agriculture. Permaculture focuses primarily on perennial crops (fruit and nut trees, perennial grasses) as opposed to annual crops (corn and soy). Many things that have become part of “the way things are done” are more destructive than we realize and as we learn more we are adjusting so that we do things with less destruction and more regeneration. The idea is that the ecosystem we manage; the land, soil, microbiology, insects, fish, birds, wildlife, and domesticated animals all work together for mutual benefit of every species – especially humans.

This is a holistic perspective, meaning that we recognize that the whole is made up of many parts that function independently and yet are vitally connected to one another. We understand that if one part suffers, the other parts can pick up the slack for a time but if that suffering part does not recover and dies off the whole is greatly affected. Like our bodies are comprised of many parts and systems, we understand that each system is interconnected and should one part or system ultimately die the whole is greatly affected. We instinctively understand that each of us is a single whole made up of many parts and systems. Everything in creation is part of at least one system or part, and that system or part is just a piece of a greater whole, and each whole is just a part of an even greater whole, and on it goes. Continue reading

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Why Is Good Food So Expensive? Part 2

In our last post we cited three suggestions as to why it feel like good food is a burden on our budgets:

~ The business model of industrial agriculture has placed the dollar as the ultimate bottom line.  While this is necessary for any business small family farmers have very different values.
~ Low quality foods (mass-produced processed foods) may have a greater volume on your plate but your body will need more of it to feel satiated.  I believe this is why our standard portion sizes have grown so much over the years.  There is even talk of our populations being malnourished because we aren’t getting the quality nutrition we require from our “Standard American Diet”.
~ Prepackaged and fast foods are convenient and have been on the market for so long that a great many people simply do not know how to cook anymore.  Many people are intimidated by their kitchens and simply don’t feel comfortable trying something new.

Our previous post talked about industrial factory farms looking for creative ways to reduce their production costs including using ingredients such as junk food and food waste when raising animals for consumption.  We determined that  “cheap inputs and a higher volume means a lower end price” and that industrial factory farms can bring in their materials at prices that are not available to small family farms.

Today though let’s focus on the second two suggestions in our original list:  Our need to eat more of the cheap food in order to feel full, and intimidation of food preparation. Continue reading

Why Is Good Food So Expensive? Part 1

One question that is often asked today is “Why is high quality, healthy food so expensive?”  It’s a very fair question!  After all, food costs have been sharply increasing for more than a decade and some families spend as much, if not more, on their grocery bill each month as they do on their housing.  That’s a lot of money!  Very few of us have enough money that we can simply buy whatever we want, whenever we want, and feel no financial pinch.

Young families have lamented that they feel forced to use their grocery budget to buy a greater volume of lower quality foods because “it makes more meals” than if they buy higher quality foods.  To buy higher quality foods means they are concerned that there will not be enough to feed the family, and that is frightening.  I can really appreciate this concern.

An example that I’ve shared with some young families is this:  Years ago when our children were small my husband’s line of work was very unpredictable.  We were really pinching every penny to make it through each month!  One of the things I decided to do was to start making bread instead of buying it.  At first it was a financial necessity, but at some point we realized that we preferred homemade bread over store-bought bread.  The times I’d buy bread our family wouldn’t be satisfied with their toast or sandwiches and often felt like they needed to eat more just to feel full.  This solidified my opinion that homemade bread is more than just a good financial decision because it cost less to make and we needed to eat less of it to feel full, it’s also a good health decision because I know that my family is eating quality ingredients.  It was a win on several fronts.  Once I got the hang of this concept, learning to make more meals from the food I had was a delightful way to make our food dollars really stretch into good healthy meals.

I’ve learned a few things about cheap food:
~ The business model of industrial agriculture has placed the dollar as the ultimate bottom line.  While this is necessary for any business small family farmers have very different values.
~ Low quality foods (mass-produced processed foods) may have a greater volume on your plate but your body will need more of it to feel satiated.  I believe this is why our standard portion sizes have grown so much over the years.  There is even talk of our populations being malnourished because we aren’t getting the quality nutrition we require from our “Standard American Diet”.
~ Prepackaged and fast foods are convenient and have been on the market for so long that a great many people simply do not know how to cook anymore.  Many people are intimidated by their kitchens and simply don’t feel comfortable trying something new.

Let’s tackle the first item listed above and save the next two for a later post.  I’ve talked with people who say, “I can get chicken at the discount store for 99¢ per pound, why on earth would I buy chicken from you for $5 per pound?”  This is a good question! Continue reading

Thriving Native Grasses Result In Full Aquifers

Here are some points that I just love about this video

~ Mr David Bamberger purchased this property when it was in terrible shape:  overgrown with brush, there was absolutely no water, and just all around useless.  He begins to plant native grasses and remove the overgrowth of certain trees & brush.  And almost immediately he begins to see an incredible restoration!

~ Aquifer Impact!  There is now water where once this land was incredibly dry.  And it happened relatively fast, too!  Only 2 .5 years after restoration began and water began to flow.  46 years prior to this video there was NO WATER, not even a well driller could drill 500′ and find water.  Cavernous limestone was under the surface, created to hold water.  I can think of another hill country in a nation’s heartland that is made of cavernous limestone and is currently being restored in some measure, where water has not been easy to come by.  Mr David Bamberger’s explanation of how native grasses brought about full water reservoirs was excellent!

~ Working with nature and not against it, taking cues from the natural order of things and learning to understand what is natural and what is unnatural, and choosing to partner with nature (the created order that Hashem established) to guard and preserve and nurture the land to bring about abundant life.

~  Ask yourself the same question that Mr David Bamberger did:  “What’s my duty as a steward of this [land]?”  You may not own property, or you might own thousands of acres, or hectares, of land.  Stewardship doesn’t require ownership.  Every human on earth shares a certain responsibility to care for the land under his or her feet.  What is *your* duty as a steward of the land you use?

Covering

As I’ve been observing how things are growing this year I am often reminded of the concept of covering.  With both the Back To Eden gardening methods and  holistic & restorative agricultural practices there has been a steady stream of complementary messages.  One message is that “nature abhors naked soil”.

If nature is how we describe and relate to creation and the structure & order Hashem created our world to thrive within, then we understand that nature abhoring naked soil has a deeper principle.

When soil is left uncovered it sprouts weeds, opportunistic little plants that seem to come from nowhere. They thrive in the uncovered and disturbed soil.  Some of these weeds have no good use and can be toxic.  Yet many that sprout up in healthy yet disturbed soil have a multitude of beneficial uses.  Nature is trying to quickly cover and restore the uncovered soil by sprouting “weeds” where the grass has been killed or removed.  The purpose of these “weeds” is to quickly provide a covering for the soil and maintain life. Continue reading

End of April Update

Things sure got busy at Tikkun Homestead!  As April ended we had a new lamb from our smallest ewe, the biggest lamb of the year even, so we’re glad he was a single.  She is a first time mama and she’s doing great.  It was a difficult delivery for her due to his size and his elbows being tucked in, but with a little help everything went very well. This big guy brings us to 14 lambs with two more ewes to lamb soon.  The does should start kidding in about six weeks or so.

The cows have moved from their winter paddock and the spring pasture around them out to their favorite pasture for grazing. Continue reading

How Does Faith Inform Farming?

In today’s world it’s common for people to separate various aspects of their life, their whole.  But this isn’t natural, and in fact it’s rather difficult to do completely.  A holistic world view is actually quite natural, it’s unnatural to divide everything into “unrelated” segments.

At The Tikkun Homestead our faith definitely informs our farming practices from the livestock we raise to how we treat them to how we plant in the garden.  We raise only animal species that are considered acceptable for consumption (Leviticus 11), we treat them with dignity afforded to every living creature (Proverbs 12:10), we mark each firstborn male for a special purpose and do not work him or keep him for breeding purposes (Exodus 34:19), we tithe on our agricultural income (Leviticus 27:30ff), we manage our garden carefully (Deuteronomy 22:9), and more.  Continue reading

Holistic

Holistic: 

  • adj.     Emphasizing the importance of the whole and the interdependence of its parts.
  • adj.     Concerned with wholes rather than analysis or separation into parts: holistic medicine; holistic ecology.

For a little while “holistic” was a $20 word, a fancy word and concept that people liked to use so they sound well-educated.  Today it is both a word and a concept that average people are fairly familiar with.  We find holistic modalities in every area of life today as we begin to better understand that nothing is independent from everything else.  From what modern science is learning, and what observers have noted for millennia, is that all of creation operates as a whole unit of systems composed of multiple smaller whole units and that there are reliable patterns to the way things go when they hum along to produce desirable outcomes.

I appreciated these quotes from the book Holistic Management: A Common Sense Revolution To Restore Our Environment:  “… the world is composed of patterns – of matter, energy, and life – that function as wholes whose qualities cannot be predicted by studying any aspect in isolation. We would know very little about water, for instance, by making an exhaustive study of hydrogen or oxygen, even though every molecule of water is composed of both. … We now realize that no whole, be it a family, a business, a community, or a nation, can be managed without looking inward to the lesser wholes that combine to form it, and outward to the greater wholes of which it is a member.”  Continue reading