It was a magical day when we purchased Brookbank Farm in 2014, and not least because we knew this land already for its magnificent soil. Thanks to a friendly arrangement with the previous owners, we actually began farming on a small plot at Brookbank beginning in 2008. From our beginnings as ‘spin farmers’ (read: “landless peasants growing food on numerous borrowed and begged small plots”) we have always been fully committed to practicing organic farming methods. But ‘organic’ comes in many flavours.
Back in the beginning we used conventional row planting, rotation systems, and lots of variety to grow really great annual vegetables. As owners now, and as folks on an ever-upward learning curve, we have been able to discover much about the land: how the water moves, where and for how long the sun shines, wind directions, what plants grow well and what do not, and so on. We came to understand that this land would not only bring higher yields, but be restored more fully if we introduced regenerative systems to the land. Regenerative agriculture, a form of permaculture practice, is, at its foundation, about building soil health. It takes its cue from Nature, for Nature, of course, is inherently regenerative: Nature always creates for itself healthier, more resilient, and increasingly diverse systems. Translated, farming (and the good soil it needs) ought to mimic the regenerative principles of Nature as much as possible. Hence, we are now transitioning to more perennial food crops over annuals, to add as much diversity as possible through polyculture gardens, to properly manage livestock as integral to the ‘farm circle’, to no-till soil preparation, to ‘food forests’ and reforestation, and to a number of other practices that in time will not only strengthen the soil, but develop this land into a healthy, beautiful, and self-sustaining ecosystem.
Some of the major changes we’ve undertaken so far include the application of permaculture methods to design and build a series of ponds and connecting waterways to “slow, sink, spread, and store” the valuable resource of water; planting over 120 fruit and nut trees (four varieties of hazelnuts, twenty varieties of heritage apple, figs, plums, etc.), 160 native streamside shrubs and food-bearing plants (bog blueberry, gooseberry, elderberry,evergreen huckleberries, crab apples, Indian plum, etc.), almost 100 other indigenous trees (spruce, hemlock, red cedar, Garry Oak, Hawthorne, etc. ), willow coppices for basketry and structures, and of course the transition of those annual crop beds into becoming permanent, perennial food zones, heavily mulched rather than tilling. In time the diverse mix of trees, shrubs, and low lying plants will form a self-sustaining, efficient and productive ecosystem that requires much less care than conventional farming.
Here’s a link to the basic principals of regenerative agriculture: