My Peruvian friend has a large rural property in Southern Peru. He has a vision of developing a large scale commercial fruit farm using organic, permaculture and biodynamic practices. Our team is planning to be a marketing partner for the project.
As part of the R&D process my friend invited me to visit a small-scale organic vegetable farm located in Sebastopol, Sonoma, California.
On only a couple hectares of land, the family is intensively growing organic kale, chard, lettuce, herbs, and a variety of other greens year round. Season vegetables are also cultivated, however the hearty greens are the centerpiece of the operation.
The farm is meticulously managed, using a variety of no-till permaculture practices. According to the owners Elizabeth and Paul;
"Tillage is widely known and proven to destroy soil. Plowing and roto-tillling destroy the life in soil and deplete soil of vital nutrients by volatilizing those nutrients into the atmosphere creating abundant, potent greenhouse gasses. Our No-Till system of soil management has brought back tremendous health to our soil, raising our soil organic matter (the life of our soil) by over 400% in just 6 years. Greater soil healh means greater crop health and greater nutrient availability for the plants to take up, and for you to eat."
In addition to the bio-intensive production, the family has a small greenhouse for starting the plants, and a low-tech composting operation.
There seems to be an agreement among these world class agriculturalists that greater soil health, and reduced problems of pests and disease can be achieved by leaving the soil alone. Even though tilling can still be an "organic" practice, it often disturbs the ecological balance of the land, and leads to increased requirements for controlling pests and disease with external inputs.
If you are going to be in the Sonoma area and interested in learning about organic farming, permaculture, and intensive organic vegetable production, it is definitely worth taking a tour.