We aim to demonstrate how farmers can earn a good income (significantly better than current income averages) while restoring the ground water, increasing rain fall, increasing the carbon holding capacity of their soil.
We will demonstrate how to get excellent yields, including monetary yields, with dry land farming, with 8 - 14 inches of rain yearly. These yields are more than the yields of conventional, industrial or GM agriculture which is entirely irrigation dependent. These yields continue not just for the 2-3 years that conventional agriculture increases yields, but the yields increase over the years and these yields continue into perpetuity. This program is organic, actually beyond organic, as we are not using the tilling or the external inputs which are the basis the high costs to the environment and to the farmer of organic agriculture. We are enhancing the soil with microbes instead of feeding the crops with external inputs. Over 5 years we expect to increase the rainfall by at least 33%, increase groundwater reserves also by 33% and increase soil organic matter (carbon) by 7 times .
What is most remarkable here is that we will do this for an amount of money which is approximately one half what a farmer expects to spend to start a farm which does not increase rainfall, recharge ground water or sink carbon. We expect this farmer to get significantly better yields with less maintenance costs, and with less input costs. Hence it is a model demonstrating how farming can be both productive for the farmer and can reverse desertification, increase rainfall, bring back superficial and deep aquifers and significantly take carbon out of the atmosphere and put it into the soil.
In other words, with this system, we can accomplish what otherwise would take massive expenditures on the part government or non-governmental agencies to reverse drought and climate change.
I realize this is an “ambitious project” and believe that nothing less than an ambitious project can solve the quandaries of food production, drought and climate change. We ask for your support, not because we have done this successfully before, but because we have the courage to try something so desperately needed. I do have a considerable history of doing successfully what I set out do.
HOW THIS WILL SUCCEED
1. Earthworks: Swales, check dams, gavions, ponds and percolation tanks. Swales are on-contour trenches which catch the water and allow it to spread wide and go into the soil rather than running off the land. Check dams, and percolation tanks are used to prevent larger amounts of water running off. We will use a chisel plow to make deep (11-14 inch cuts) every 12 inches in the soil to encourage deep water penetration. These are used to allow the water time to go deep into the aquifers.
2. Using compost tea made from local flora and fauna to drastically increase microbes and hence organic matter.
3. This is a no till system. Tilling kills microbes which are the basis of soil fertility. The aeration of the soil is accomplished with microbes and macrobes (such as earth worms). They work symbiotically with capillary action so that deep soil water is delivered to the plant roots.
4. Planting of quick growing nitrogen fixing trees, known to work in similar situations around the world to go down deep in the soil.
a. These trees act as bore well trees which means they will passively bring the water back up for the plants, so that the plants will grow without additional irrigation. We will use analog sites (sites all over the world that are at similar latitude and elevations) to determine a selection of trees that are most likely to work here in this area. After determining all of the possibilities of what could work, we put the seed material into seed balls and let nature select which of these deep rooted nitrogen fixing trees will flourish here
b. Planting of the same quick growing nitrogen fixing trees as well as other useful trees to be used as chop and drop for dry mulch.
5. Planting of nitrogen fixing perennial legumes to go down deep into the soil, for use as a living mulch as well as to harvest for dry mulching in nearby areas. One plant we will use is dry land alfalfa (particular varieties of alfalfa which do well without irrigation.)
6. Mulch particles from dry mulch seed the clouds with particulate matter, acting as a precipitate for rain. This mimics a forest, where the layers of mulch around the trees, as well as the trees themselves encourage rainfall over the forest.
7. Planting of hedgerows every 300 feet for windbreaks, for pest predators, for bees, for birds, for diversity, etc.
8. Planting of fruit trees, nut trees, pulses, grains, vegetables and medicinal herbs. These provide
a. Food for the farmer and workers.
b. Income to the farmer, and
c. This biodiversity completes the system so that no off site nutrients need to be added to continue the system into perpetuity
9. These techniques have been used in India for thousands of years with productive results. Productivity is measured in one crop per acre, as an example, millet. When another crop is interplanted with this millet crop, say lentils, you have much higher productivity, but the stats are reported out as just the millet crop. While planting the two plants together increases productivity, the stats do not reflect this.
10. Unfortunately Indian farmers have been led by advertising and local chemical sales people to convert much of their land into industrial agriculture or till-monocropping, so that these super productive systems are seen only in the “back country.”
By growing 20 different kinds of plants together we will not have to fertilize our crops. The microbes in the soil working with the biodiversity of plants will do the fertilizing for us. There will be very little pest or disease problems because the plants are not overfed. See below to understand how overfeeding causes pest and disease problems.* The soil microbes create the perfect soil environment for the plants and protect the plants from the pathogenic bacteria starting the pest and disease cycles. Because of no till, as well as the bacteria creating the exact environment for the desired plants, there will be very little weed problem.
As noted above our goal is to help others learn these methods. Also it gives us a labor force for the work.
1. Using broad acre permaculture to reverse desertification, bring back the rainfall, restore the groundwater and increase carbon storage in the ground while earning better than standard agricultural returns.
2. How to create earthworks for retaining water in the ground
3. How to rainwater harvest from our homes
4. We will have workshops for children and teenagers as well as young adults.
5. How to ecobuild.
SOME OF THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE PAVED THE WAY FOR THIS PROJECT (RESOURCES)
At this point we want to give you a list of papers or videos which have achieved parts of our results. Some of these sources show the need for what we are doing. We will obtain our amazing results by combining all these methods. We are not scientists and in fact we do not believe that science with their rigorous, slow, focused on the details analysis can come up with the results so needed in these times. We sincerely hope for the sake of the planet and for the sake of the farmers and nations that depend on farming income, that farmers will follow through with our results, adjusted to their land, long before science documents our results.
1. Elaine Ingham has taken wastelands caused from many years of GM crops in the Midwest and rehabilitated them with compost tea made from weeds growing on those lands. All soils have what the plants need. The problem is that much of what the plants need is not available. Scientists agree with this. What Elaine Ingham and other soil scientists such as Claude Bourgeron have discovered that is outside what is common science is that with the addition of microbes and diverse plants, everything the plant needs becomes available. Microbes add both the organic matter and the minerals the plants need, in combination with minerals from the diverse plantings, what in permaculture we call dynamic accumulators.
The Roots of Your Profits - Dr Elaine Ingham, Soil Microbiologist, Founder of Soil Foodweb Inc
Oxford Real Farming
2. Willi Smits in his Borneo project for habitat for orangutans has increased the rainfall by 4 inches per year and the groundwater levels are closer to the surface. Demonstrating how these methods have worked over 4 years in Borneo there is a video from Willi Smits.
3. Narsanna Koppula has grown on his 11.5 acres near Hyderabad, India for 17 years without irrigating with 25.6 inches of rain per year or adding fertilizer except mulch with better yields each year. http://permacultureindia.org/permaculture-farms/ 4. Paul and Elizabeth Kaiser in a no till system on their 3 acres vegetable farm in Sebastopol, Ca. have 5-8 times the yields of conventional agriculture, earning more than 100,000 per acre per year (gross), using no pesticides, herbicides, while dramatically increasing soil organic content. The Drought Fighter from Craftsmanship Magazine: http://craftsmanship.net/drought-fighters/ 5. Farmers in Gujarat have grown for hundreds of years 6 crops together, what they call a cropping system, one of which is cotton with the soil getting better and better each year, never adding water or any kind of fertilizer. The plants and soil feed each other getting excellent yields . This is on my web site at www.handsonpermaculture1.org under cropping system. It was taken from the appendix of the book Vision of Natural Farming by Bharat Mansata. The book is about the work of Bhaskar Save, India’s Fukuoka, also called the Ghandi of Indian Agriculture. It is according to me one of the best and most easily digestible permaculturebooks available. It is available at Earthcare Books. http://www.earthcarebooks.com/categories/details/1087 6. Bhaskar Save’s plantation in Gujarat where he has the highest coconut yield in India after not feeding his coconuts in 30 years. Charlotte was extremely fortunate to interact with Bhaskar Save before his death last year as well as with his grandson. Also there were no weeds in his fields. Elaine Ingham comments on land with the proper soil life balance not needing weeds as well. This video tells about what was important to him.
PRINCIPAL FOR THE PROJECT: Charlotte Anthony
Charlotte Bio: will add meanwhile view my bio on my web site, handsonpermaculture1.org
This is a list of what is needed for the first year on the farm, including start up costs. After this first year the farm will be self sustaining.
We will list expenses in separate categories and total each category separately.
a. Set up costs for a permaculture farm with water retaining structures.
b. Bringing in structures, etc for workshops and living on the land.
c. Maintenance costs for the first year.
1. Earthworks for 20 acres.* 10,500
2. Seeds* 8,000
3. Azomite 5,000
4. Deer fencing needs to be put up, eventually replaced by living fence 20,000
5. Labor, some labor costs need to be included. 10,000
6. Tools 1,000
7. Rental of equipment we do not have (such as a seed drill) 2,000
Structures for living on the land
1 Initially we will use camping trailers for staff and workers
Purchase of trailers 2,500
Transportation of trailers to the site 1,000
Installation of the trailers including water to at least one trailer. 2,500
2 Solar for electricity. 1,500
People for oversight. This project will be professionally documented* 20,000
We want to get a grant for this, but documentation is fundamental and grants take time.
Contingency fund 7,000
1. 8-10 months, we will have a lot of medicinal herbs to sell that we have grown. These will be herbs which grow with only rain water. We expect that harvest and marketing costs will be significant and we have therefore listed net incomes here.
$3,000 per acre per year 60,000.
2. Pulses, grains and vegetables will be grown to feed ourselves and the woodshop attendees. Growing foods for ourselves is an integral part of our farming vision. Vegetables will only be grown on the 1 acres near to the living spaces.
3. Some vegetables such as squashes which can be easily transported will be grown. Income from squashes is expected to be $2,000 per acre per year.
$1,000 per acre per year 20,000
4. Fruit and nut trees will begin producing in 7-10 years. We are interplanting these with autumn olive trees which will hasten the maturity of these trees, but we want to be conservative. to $4,000 per acre per year $80,000
1. Earthworks. These costs replace irrigation starting up a conventional farm, includes swales. Convention farm start ups are __________ plus equipment. In our current case, the farmer whose land we are using have most of the equipment that will be needed. For demonstration purposes we want to price out the equipment in any case. We also need to rent a seed drill.
2. Seeds for 20 acres. This is high and includes a cement mixer to make seed balls. The method of using seed balls costs more but gives “nature” the choice of what to grow. It is still considerably cheaper than buying trees and plants from a nursery where the maintenance needs are high and there is an expected failure rate.
3. Oversight. This requires that we have people come from a University to monitor the water and soil. This means rainfall and groundwater in the immediate area as well as water 25 miles away, both ground water and rainfall. Also they need to monitor the carbon content in the soil. Charlotte is currently in discussion with University of Oregon folks who might be willing to do this. Also we will have a videography team.
I read your blog eagerly when you were starting to get things rolling in South India, and I really want to know how that went. Could you write any updates after the last post on your blog? I know there are a lot of challenges to working in India, and we could all learn from each other's successes and challenges.
Works at a residential alternative high school in the Himalayas SECMOL.org . "Back home" is Cape Cod, E Coast USA.