Yesterday we drove to San Rafael for a panel on diversified, regenerative farming practices at the Bioneers Conference; there was a direct focus on cannabis as part of the conversation. It was a powerful experience to see the shifting landscape of policy and food-systems work beginning to include the potential for cannabis to provide a support tool for small farms. The flip side is that the policy development has moved in directions that are antithetical to the participation of most small operators.
There remains a tremendous journey ahead, but I am heartened every day by the conversations that are happening around restoration economies, diversified farmscapes and regenerative land-use practices. Despite massive regulatory hurdles, I am filled with hope for a future of land-use practices that help to heal and support damaged ecosystems while providing economic benefits to thriving rural communities.
Fall moves along as the oak leaves begin to drift to earth. The pasture glows a vibrant green because of the irrigation water we’ve been able to allocate to it. Cover crops that we’ve undersown throughout the garden are taking off, climbing up through the remains of summer growth. As squash, cucumber and eggplant begin to languish, the rich green of new cover crop rising from beneath creates a panoply of color that gladdens the soul.
We are marching into the shorter days as winter approaches; though there have already been hard frosts in the valley, we are without a freeze as yet. This means that we’re still bringing in limited amounts of the summer crops; not enough to equate to a viable productivity of bed-space, but because we are able to undersow cover crop to build soil this winter, the limited productivity is an addition to the farm. These types of calculations are common; if we had more space to cultivate, we wouldn’t have to engage in such a delicate balancing act. The reality of being a very small, diversified farm is that we are always seeking maximum productivity for foot of bed-space.
Rotations of crops must be choreographed, as must the need to sop up any leftover nutrients and create ground cover prior to the rains and freezes of winter. Cover crops provide shelter for the soil while offering carbohydrates through root exudates that feed micro-organic soil biota. Keeping a living mulch covering the soil helps to build organic matter and tilth, creating better water-holding capacity and drainage over time. Living soil grows healthy plants, helping to minimize pest pressure and damage. Raising cover crops lowers nutrient needs and closes a loop of farm production.
Stacking functions is the principle of achieving multiple uses or processes out of the same space or activity. Multi-use infrastructure coupled with diversified crop and animal rotations creates opportunity for more economic benefit to the farm while offering a varied and meaningful work-plan and building beneficial environmental practices into the operations manual. Articulating these processes creates opportunity for revision and learning over time, which holds space for betterment of practice and access to place-based knowledge. Each trip around the sun we become better farmers and stewards.
The share this week is indicative of the fall; we are back to the time when it is possible to use the oven for roasting without roasting ourselves out of the house. We’ve been eating lots of roasted root vegetables, often with slow-cook braises with chicken, pork, beef or lamb. It is a joy to be able to access quality meats from local sources; it is important to us to support other producers in our community as we are, in turn, supported. As always, it is a joy to share the journey! Much love and appreciation from Team HappyDay! 🙂