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How do Biointensive Methods Translate
to Large Scale Farming?

From Ecology Action

Question:  I'm a sustainability consultant based in a large farming area in the UK (East Anglia) and am wondering what you consider the potential is for applying these kinds of techniques on a large scale for arable farms growing wheat crops for example?

If you think there could be real practical benefits to industrial farmers to gain larger yields from the same areas of ground please let me know and I'd be happy to champion the principles and techniques and perhaps to look at ways to adapt farming equipment to conduct some trials.

Double DiggingAnswer: Thanks for the good question!

While the simple, manual farming techniques do not translate with immediate ease to larger-scale farming operations, all of the components necessary to farm on a commercial scale, as we have known it, are proving to be unsustainable in the long-run. It is also important to note that there have been many studies validating superior yields from smaller farming units than from larger commercial operations. A Food First study of farming in 13 countries revealed that small farms yield 2 to 5 times more than large commercial operations. An article in September, 1976 Scientific American also quotes Sterling Wortman, President of the Rockefeller Foundation saying that globally small farms are generally more productive. In 1998 in Russia, 3% of their farmable land was in dachas, or “kitchen gardens,” attached to people’s country homes. The 3% of farmed area made up by the dachas yielded 40% of Russia’s food production. The remaining 97% of farmable land was in large-scale, commercial operations and yielded 60% of the food produced.

Amaranth in a Biointensive SettingThe beauty of the method we use is that the Biointensive Mini-Farming method creates small patches of highly productive agriculture that when laid together side by side result in a beautiful living “quilt,” which could be viewed from the air as one, seamless, large-scale system. While the overall result can appear “large scale,” we encourage people to spend a fair amount of time connecting more intimately with the soil, for this is where the healing -- and sustainable productivity -- truly begins.  Ghandi once noted that “to forget to dig the soil is to forget oneself.”

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