Summary Growing Green: Animal-Free Organic Techniques is an essential guide about organic growing and is perfect for absolute beginners as well as experienced professionals. This book introduces the concept of stockfree-organic and shows, through case studies, that when growers abandon the use of slaughterhouse by-products and manures they can be rewarded with healthier crops, less weeds, pests and diseases.
In an age where dreams of self-sufficiency seem unattainable, Growing Green shows that making a living from growing organic vegetables can be achieved by anyone who is willing to rent land. Until now there have been no comprehensive guidelines on how to follow the organic standards at the different scales of vegetable production using tractors, small machinery and hand tools.
This practical and easy-to-follow guide answers:
What tools and machinery will I need?
What are the benefits of compost?
How do I manage different green manures?
Can I make seed compost without slaughterhouse by-products?
What rotations should I use for year-round vegetable supply?
How do I grow, harvest and store 60 different vegetables?
How can I weed without chemicals?
How can I reduce pest and diseases?
How can I encourage wildlife?
Where should I sell my produce?
How can I ensure that I am reducing my ecological footprint?
An invaluable guide for the grower, researcher and student; this book will prove to be an important step forward for the organic movement.
Thanks for the lead, and for the review. I took some Permaculture workshops at Ecoversity in Santa Fe years ago, then spent years having to relocate regularly due to elder care situations. Now looking at getting back onto a piece of land other than a rental somewhere and starting over, so resources like this are much appreciated! I have always kept a few animals, but they all become family members, including the sheep and the llama (for spinning & weaving), and the heavy emphasis on "animal products" always made me uncomfortable --- plus I wondered if it was even possible to cultivate a Permaculture landscape without that.
I'm reading this book and really find it fantastic, can't wait to share a review. Its setting my mind to openning up on many points on soil fertility. From a nonvegan perspective I think this book is a great resource for thinking of more options for soil building and if we used the experiences shared by the authors even on a non-stock free homestead or farm the diversification and complexity we can obtain on soil fertility building can be exceptional.
Anyone want o to share there thoughts on this book or write a review?
This has been a mind blowing read. It’s taken me sometime to finish because it’s not an easy read. In its pages the authors share thirty years of research and experience in growing commercially vegetables in a stockfree-organic system. The most important aspect of the book it’s based on thorough, serious research. I was nearly there in handing out a big fat 10 to my rating of this book, but I still think 10 is something I'll never encounter, I'm going to stick to my maximum 9.8.
The farms that have been involved in this research are Tolhurst Organic, Elm farm, ADAST Terrington and Co-operative Wholesale society in Leicester. So we’re not speaking of only one region, and one climate but a research conducted on different soil types and microclimates.
Yes the book speaks about systems that fully combine with the vegan vision of food production, but it’s more than this. Having read this book as a non-vegan I was very impressed for the heavy data it is based on, I’m not complying other vegan based researches aren’t, but the data in this book speaks sound and clear and can leave no doubt to those that have, open minds but still have to be convinced. And most of all this book is about farming not about food consumption. It starts off from the beginning, on how we grow our food.
The possibilities this research opens are immense and I’ll discuss this point later.
The book is a technical manual based on the stockfree-organic standard that were put together in 2004 and the book further elaborates the guidelines.
To understand how important this research can be for all farmers we have to move from one of the assertions the authors share in the first pages of this book.
“ Research into commercial stockfree-organic agriculture arose not for compassionate reasons but through economic necessity. … The Elm farm sotckless trials came about in the early 1990’s because of the lack of farmyard manure in the arable eastern counties like Norfolk and South Lincolnshire. The lack of livestock inputs was proving a significant barrier to getting farmers to convert to organic grain production.”
This was a big information for a new-nearly-farmer as I am. Because it set me thinking some easy solutions may seem convenient but if I have to but animal inputs from 60 or more km’s is it really convenient or not just an easy shortcut in the short term? On the long run what will the outcome be of this choice?
Starting from the fact that studying permaculture has taken me to think about the responsibility we have to take of our decisions, the starting pages of this book set me thinking and made me want to dive into its pages even more. Something had struck my assumptions.
“Are animal inputs necessary in organic systems? It is not possible to build up soil health and grow organically without animal manure. The trials mentioned above (carried out over years by the farms I mentioned) have proved this to be untrue. In fact it would be thermodynamically impossible for all fertility to originate from animals. Animals do not have the ability to produce new plant fertility. Plants alone are the producers of food energy and of soil humus and all animals, including humans, are net consumers.”
In the book the authors don’t deny animal manures fertilise the soil and yield crops, but the fertility does not derive from these residues directly. From a stockfree-organic growers perspective there are many ways of creating a positive ecological impact, the most important, that are fully discussed in the book are: composting, green manuring and encouraging beneficial wildlife.
The important view of the book that takes us to a new level of research is that they have tried and managed very well to demonstrate that all this can be achieved in a single farm. Indeed it would be absurd to not buy animal manures from long distances and then buy green manures in the same way, from long distances. The fertility has to be built on site, taking green manures form another would like stealing fertility, that then has to be rebuilt on the first one. The authors demonstrate how all this can be done in a “closed” sort of system
The book describes the techniques to put this approach in practice. The book is not proposing only one possible approach but shares ones that can even be in contrast with one another. The reader finds information on no-till systems and systems that turn under green manures. Both systems are used in stockfree-organic farms and it is up to the reader to choose the best practice.
The central chapters of this work are soil fertility, composting procedures, propagation, weed control, pests and diseases, environmental conservation, etc., and most of all, very important by my point of view, rotations.
The interesting thing about the rotations applied in stockfree-organic farms is the length of these systems. We’re speaking of nine year rotations and very well studied succession in growing vegetables that lead to building soil fertility and maintaining it for the longest, then starting to rebuild it. The rotation systems are strictly tied to the use of green manures that are delt with in very different ways, from undersowing to green manure fertility strips.
The system to enhance soil fertility opened a universe in my mind. It has complicated my vision of how we reason about fertility, but I know I’ll get around it sooner or later.
The important thing is that this book shares great knowledge and states that it is not exhaustive, we have to all undergo research on these techniques.
What has really set me thinking is how these practices could be applied to smaller systems, or even urban micro farms. The trials presented in the book are made in farms that have an extension that varies but is around eight acres, three hectares, big farming systems in my view. Stating the importance of these practices can we downscale them to smaller plots? What is the minimum size we can try them out and have them produce a positive result?
The answer is in the further research we all have to do. Not importing animal pelletized manures could help many that have backyard gardens build their fertility applying these interesting techniques without sustaining an industry that produces natural fertilizers and amendments that in the organic world is growing and has become well industrialised, with a huge carbon footprint.
It’s not something we can just dismiss as a little point. Organic farming is not always beneficial to soil fertility, and many organic farmers forget that we’re not in farming only for the yield but for creating and maintaining ecological stable systems, where soil fertility is the foundation if it all.
The reading of this book could help many farmers look at different possibilities using plants as green manures, even if not wanting to become entirely stockfree-organic growers. The great importance of this thorough research lies in its implications for all farmers. Its view is of great importance to all. It sets the right balance even between beneficial wildlife and farming. It takes farming to a whole new vision in tis practical outcome. We can integrate systems.
I could go on quoting more paragraphs, but I guess it’s useless. I don’t want to convince anyone, the most important thing I have learnt with permaculture is to open my mind, and share and take what others share.
This is a book that I think is more than worth sharing, it is the answer to all those that, in innumerous discussions, dismiss sotckfree growing techniques as not possible. Well take your time and read it maybe you’ll think differently after reading it.